EcoSure Food Safety Monitor
april 2017

The EcoSure Food Safety Monitor is a free monthly newsletter written by EcoSure Food Safety & Public Health experts. EcoSure is a division of Ecolab.
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April 2017 Food Safety Monitor newsletter

In need of U.S. Food Bacterial Outbreak Data?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched FoodNet Fast, an interactive online program for getting information on cases of illness reported to the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet). By utilizing Via FoodNet Fast, you can see how rates of illness have changed over the past 20 years for nine pathogens commonly transmitted through food: Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 and non-O157, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yershina.

This new tool generates interactive charts and tables summarizing U.S. food bacterial outbreak data. You can personalize the information as needed by modifying foodborne pathogen, year or patient demographics via the search options. Additionally, you can download data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), which covers about 15% of the United States population.

Tips for Dealing with Bird Flu

In March two separate instances occurred where a strain of H7 avian influenza was detected.  The first was on March 3 at a poultry farm in southern Tennessee. The farm is now under quarantine, as are 30 other poultry farms within a 6.2-mile radius. The second instance was on March 9 at a farm in Giles County, Tennessee. The USDA and Tennessee Department of Agriculture are testing the flocks.

The poultry suppliers all increased biosecurity measures at their facilities. Those measures include:

 

  • The elimination of all nonessential visitor access to the chicken farms
  • Proper disinfection of vehicles entering farms
  • Use of biosecurity uniforms for all visitors
  • Special training for company employees who come into contact with live birds

National Restaurant Association food-safety experts – William Weichelt, Vito Palazzolo and Mick Miklos – provide their thoughts on what suppliers, operators and their poultry purchasers should know:

  1. Follow federally-mandated safety regulations and standards
    This is a federal issue, so it is important to follow all rules regarding monitoring, diagnosis and actions set by the USDA and FDA. They are responsible for controlling and limiting the spread of bird flu and its aftereffects.

  2. This is an animal health issue, not a food-safety issue
    If any infected chickens were ever processed, there’s no evidence suggesting the illness could be transmitted to humans – provided the poultry is properly cooked. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control say properly cooked poultry (minimum of 165 degrees with proper hygiene) is safe to eat.

  3. Purchase poultry processed in USDA-inspected plants only
    The USDA is in every plant that processes birds, and they’re doing the necessary testing to ensure food safety. If you use local sourcing methods to procure your poultry, make sure they, too, use a USDA-inspected processing plant. Also, make sure they have a testing protocol set up and are willing to share their protocols and copies of the Certificate of Analysis (COA) that ensure they’re actually conducting testing. If they aren’t, find a new supplier.

  4. Have a communications strategy in place
    Restaurateurs should be prepared to talk to concerned customers about how they are serving safe food to their guests. Be upfront and knowledgeable with the public; have talking points that address how your food items are sourced.

  5. Maintain personal sanitary practices
    If you’ve had contact with sick or dead poultry or wildlife, wash your hands well with soap and water. Also, be sure to change your clothing before you have contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

  6. Where to get the latest news or updates on the situation
    Information is available from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services and from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture

 

Food Safety Tips for Weather Emergencies/Power Outages


Spring is upon us which also means unpredictable spring weather including tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, lightning, and floods. Are you prepared for a weather emergency or power outage? The following food safety tips are from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.


  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).

  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.

  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

 
 

Steps to follow after a weather emergency/power outage:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.

  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.

  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.

  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.

  • When in doubt, throw it out.

Additional resources:

FSIS publication “Preparing for a Weather Emergency”can be downloaded and printed for reference during an emergency:

FSIS also has an infographic covering what to do before, during and after a power outage.

Ask the Expert: Table Tops as Food Contact Surfaces and Microwave Heating and Cooking

 

Question: Are dining room table tops considered food-contact surfaces?

Answer: Generally speaking, the answer is no–table tops are not intended as food contact surfaces. Here is the Food Code definition of "Food-contact surface":

(1) A surface of EQUIPMENT or a UTENSIL with which FOOD normally comes into contact; or

(2) A surface of EQUIPMENT or a UTENSIL from which FOOD may drain, drip, or splash: (a) Into a FOOD, or

(b) Onto a surface normally in contact with FOOD.

That being said, there may certainly be instances when your guests place food directly onto table surfaces. This may sometimes be seen with children who place their food directly on table tops or people who place a dinner roll onto a table surface. Food Code does discuss the importance of keeping non-food contact surfaces clean to help prevent contamination to food-contact surfaces.  As always, check with your local regulatory agency. It is important to emphasize using soap-rinse-sanitize on tables periodically just due to potential contamination from guests.

Question: Can you explain the difference between heating and cooking using a microwave?

AnswerRegarding cooking using a microwave, see §3-401.12 in the Food Code. Raw animal foods are cooked to 165ºF in all parts of the food and allowed to stand for 2 minutes for the temperature to equilibrate. This target temperature is used for all protein types due to inconsistent heating in microwaves. Rotate or stir items during cooking and cover to retain moisture. 

For heating a previously cooked item (reheating) in the microwave, see §3-403.11(B). If the items are being reheated for hot holding, you should heat to 165ºF, stir or rotate product and allow product to stands for 2 minutes as with a raw product. As with reheating using standard ovens, you want to reheat quickly.  If you are reheating for immediate service, the target temperature does not matter except for quality purposes.    

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