EcoSure Food Safety Monitor
June 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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June 2017 Food Safety Monitor newsletter

CDC's National Environmental Assessment Reporting System (NEARS) 2015 Summary Report

New data has become available covering the outbreak sources, agents and contributing factors in NEARS-participating states and counties--California; Connecticut; Davis County, Utah; Fairfax County, Virginia; Harris County, Texas; Minnesota; New York City; New York State; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Wisconsin. The summary report provides information on characteristics of those outbreaks and the establishments where the outbreaks occurred. Below is a short summary, and additional information can be found in the full 2015 Summary Report.

  • 4% of the suspected food vehicles were produce
  • 61% of outbreaks were contributed to the employees suspected to be infectious, with contamination happening via bare hand contact or glove-hand contact, along with other modes of contamination
  • 59% of the establishments had at least one critical violation noted during their last health department inspection
  • Norovirus was a primary agent of the outbreaks in 62% of the cases

Increased Danger with Shellfish as Summer Arrives

shellfish

Warm summer temperatures mean increasing dangers from foodborne bacteria in raw and undercooked oysters and other shellfish. “Naturally occurring bacteria in warm coastal seawater becomes more abundant in the summer months and can concentrate in the tissues of oysters and other shellfish,” according to a recent warning posted by the Florida Department of Health. “Each year, we see cases of foodborne illness resulting from eating raw or undercooked seafood, particularly raw oysters,” Escambia County Director John J. Lanza of the state health department said in the warning.

One challenge for suppliers, foodservice operators, and consumers is that contaminated oysters and other shellfish do not look, smell or taste different, according to the warning posted by the Florida Department of Health. 

For food service operation, the first line of defense is working with a reputable distributor, grower or shipper.  If working with a distributor, they should have an established relationship with commercial growers and shippers who are retrieving the oysters and other mollusks such as clams and mussels from waters deemed to be safe. 

Unshucked mollusks received on-site should be alive, kept properly chilled (often on ice) and properly labeled.  In the FDA Food Code 3-202.18, the labels, what are called Shellstock tags, must be affixed to each container by the harvester or dealer and contain:

  • The harvester’s ID number
  • The date of harvesting
  • Harvesting location
  • Type and quantity of the shellfish
  • And the statement on the tag should read in bold letters  "This tag is required to be attached until container is empty or retagged and thereafter kept on file for 90 days”

Once a container of live mollusks has been emptied, the tag must be kept on file for at least 90 days.  This could potentially be useful should there be any report of foodborne illness.  Hepatitis may not emerge or be diagnosed until up to 90 days. Never combine containers of the live mollusks and keep them in the proper containers as they are being used.  In other words, don’t empty them into a different storage container.


  • Discard dead mollusks. These remain open when handled as opposed to live ones that close their shells
  • Menus should have a Consumer Advisory when offering raw or undercooked shellfish
  • Employees should wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handing raw seafood
  • Wear protective clothing such as disposable gloves when handling raw seafood
  • Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood
Cooking tips for shellfish in the shell:
  • Boil until the shells open and continue boiling 5 more minutes or steam until the shells open and continue steaming for 9 more minutes
  • Only serve shellfish that open during cooking; Discard shellfish that do not open fully after cooking

Cooking tips for shucked oysters:

  • Boil for at least three minutes or until the edges curl
  • Fry in oil for at least three minutes at 375° F
  • Broil three inches from heat for three minutes
  • Bake at 450° Fahrenheit for 10 minutes


FDA to Extend Compliance Dates for Nutrition Facts Label Final Rules

label

The FDA announced earlier in June that the compliance date for the Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts Label and Serving Size final rule will be extended from the original date of July 26, 2018. Industry and consumer groups provided the FDA with feedback regarding the compliance dates after those rules were finalized.

After careful consideration, the FDA determined that additional time would provide manufacturers covered by the rule with necessary guidance from FDA. They have not indicated what the new compliance date will be. The announcement of the new compliance date will be given in a forthcoming Federal Register notification. Fore more information, see the FDA notice and announcement.  


“Avocado Hand” – Who Knew Avocados Could Be Dangerous

shellfishThe popularity of avocados and guacamole in foodservice continues to grow and with that an increase in injuries from cutting and peeling avocados is on the rise.  The U.K. newspaper The Times reports that the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons is seeing a growing number of patients in the emergency room as a result of "avocado hand" – injuries from failed attempts to cut an avocado.

“Many cases involve serious nerve and tendon injuries, requiring intricate surgery—and even then some patients never recover the full use of the hand,” reported The Times.

Experts recommend against cutting an avocado while holding it in your hand; instead, slice into it on a cutting board. Be sure your employees working with fresh avocados are properly trained and use appropriate safety tools. The California Avocado Commission provides helpful information on how to cut avocados:

  1. Start with a ripe avocado on a cutting board and cut it lengthwise around the seed. They recommend cutting into the avocado until the knife hits the seed, then rotating the avocado with one hand while holding the knife horizontally in the other hand.
  2. Turn the avocado by a quarter, and cut it in half lengthwise again.
  3. Rotate the avocado halves in your hands and separate the quarters.
  4. Removing the seed by pulling it out gently with the fingertips is a safe method. 
  5. Tip: If using the seed-extraction method of striking the seed with a knife and twisting, the employee should be well-trained and wearing a cut-resistant glove on the hand holding the avocado. This should be covered with a disposable glove. 
  6. Peel the fruit by sliding your thumb under the skin and peeling the skin back or scooping using a large spoon.

Find additional information from the California Avocado Commission on how to choose and use an avocado.

Ask the Expert: Non-Continuous Cooking of Raw Animal Foods

 

Question: I want to cook raw product in two phases: For example, cooking to 125°F, then cooling, and then cooking to the proper temperature the rest of the way. What is the process I need to follow?

AnswerYou would need written procedures of your process that have been approved by the local authority for par-cooking of any raw animal food. Your procedures would need to meet the food code guidelines for Non-Continuous Cooking of Raw Animal Foods if allowed in the specific jurisdictions. Here is the food code reference:

3-401.14 Non-Continuous Cooking of Raw Animal Foods.

Raw animal FOODS that are cooked using a NON-CONTINUOUS COOKING process shall be:

(A) Subject to an initial heating process that is no longer than sixty minutes in duration;

(B) Immediately after initial heating, cooled according to the time and temperature parameters specified for cooked TIME/TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY FOOD under  3501.14(A);

(C) After cooling, held frozen or cold, as specified for TIME/TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY FOOD under 3501.16(A)(2);

(D) Prior to sale or service, cooked using a process that heats all parts of the FOOD to a temperature and for a time as specified under 3-401.11 (A)-(C);

(E) Cooled according to the time and temperature parameters specified for cooked TIME /TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY FOOD under 3-501.14 (A) if not either hot held as specified under 3-501.16(A), served immediately, or held using time as a public health control as specified under §3-501.19 after complete cooking;  and (F) Prepared and stored according to written procedures that:

(1) Have obtained prior APPROVAL from the REGULATORY AUTHORITY;

(2) Are maintained in the FOOD ESTABLISHMENT and are available to the REGULATORY AUTHORITY upon request;

(3) Describe how the requirements specified under (A)(E) of this Section are to be monitored and documented by the PERMIT HOLDER and the corrective actions to be taken if the requirements are not met;

(4) Describe how the FOODS, after initial heating, but prior to complete cooking, are to be marked or otherwise identified as FOODS that must be cooked as specified under  (D) of this section prior to being offered for sale or service; and

(5) Describe how the FOODS, after initial heating but prior to cooking as specified under (D) of this section, are to be separated from READY-TO-EAT FOODS as specified under 3-302.11 (A).

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