Posted on

Hand Washing: Sanitation That Saves Lives

AnnMargaret Dwyer
Originally Published in Food Safety

We can all agree that handwashing is important. We know that washing your hands prevents you from getting sick, helps prevent the spread of germs, and helps keep our food safe. But time and time again we see people choose to not wash their hands, knowing full well they should be. Why does this happen? It is important to understand why people do not wash their hands, that way more effective techniques can be created to enhance your facility’s handwashing culture.

The Psychology of Not Washing Your Hands

Many people do not wash their hands after they go to the bathroom. But why? Pol Rodellar from VICE chose to ask people why exactly they don’t partake in this sanitary process in the article “People Explain Why They Don’t Wash Their Hands After Peeing”. A few responses to note were:

“People just wash their hands because that’s what they see in films. I sometimes do it in front of people who I saw just washed their hands-I suppose it’s out of respect for others. I guess I don’t do it for myself, but for them.”

Sara, 26

“It’s a fact that washing our hands is just something we do to fit into society. This morning, while I was using the urinal, a colleague who had just finished peeing started thoroughly washing his own hands. So when I finished, I had to do the same so that guy- who continued to wash and dry them as if he had just come out of a mine – didn’t think I was some filthy urchin. So here’s to wasting water and soap and a disposable paper towel just because I can’t be bothered to explain my toilet habits to my colleagues.”

Jordi, 30

“I normally wash my hands before I pee because they’re always dirty due to my job. I only wash my hands afterwards if I splash myself. And to be honest, I’ve stopped worrying about contracting things down there.”

Martin, 28

“I don’t have time to be constantly washing myself. I actually think we all clean ourselves too much – it can’t be good for our skin. Our society is too sterilized and it’s not natural.”

Lucia, 22

But Why?

In a study conducted by scientist Thomas Berry and his colleagues on a university campus, Berry wanted to analyze whether or not gender played a role in handwashing behaviors in the bathroom. The team observed 170 subjects in a public restroom and found that the action of hand washing and for how long were based on the activities the subjects conducted in the restroom. In the study, 91% of women washed their hands. This was attributed to all the women using a cubicle to go to the bathroom. When looking at the men, 87.5% of men washed their hands when using the cubicle but only 59.4% washed their hands when using the urinal. The conclusion was that to the subjects, going to the bathroom in the cubicle warranted more hand washing.

In addition to whether each subject washed their hands, those that did were timed. An important note is that the median time for handwashing showed both men and women washing their hands for less than ten seconds. This is troublesome since the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggested time for handwashing is 20 seconds. This study shows that if your staff is more likely to use a urinal when going to the bathroom, a greater emphasis on handwashing procedures must be put in place to protect food from being contaminated.

When to Wash Your Hands

The more someone washes their hands, the less likely they are to spread germs and disease. In a manufacturing facility all employees should wash their hands before or after the following:

  • Before beginning work
  • Before preparing food
  • Before handling an injury such as a cut
  • After using the bathroom
  • After sneezing or coughing
  • After touching your hair or face
  • After taking out the trash
  • After using cleaning materials
  • Before changing jobs handling raw and ready to eat food

How to Wash Your Hands

As directed by the Center for Disease Control(CDC):

“Follow these five steps every time.

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them”.

The Science Behind Handwashing

Not washing your hands after going to the bathroom is a leading cause of the spread of infections and diseases. Feces is a common source of Salmonella, E.coli 0157, and norovirus, and can also cause certain respiratory infections. “A single gram of human feces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs”. For this reason, in your facility, it is important to ensure that handwashing practices always remain front of mind by having handwashing diagrams with instructions at every hand washing station.

In addition to germs being spread because hands are not washed after using the bathroom, germs can also spread is animal feces inadvertently on raw meat. Cross-contamination and poor sanitation practices can cause these invisible germs to spread.

The Impact Hand Washing Can Have

“Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community:

Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40%

Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%

Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%

Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%

https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html

It is not easy to establish a handwashing program that works. To do so you need an engaged staff who feels a sense of ownership for your company’s food safety culture and understands that they are a determining factor in whether your company produces safe food. Hand washing training and seminars need to be part of your “always-on” food safety program because ultimately your entire staff affects your end product and the bottom-line.

Advertisements
Posted on

Food Labeling Requirements for Manufacturers and Updated Compliance Dates

By Michael Shabaka, Ph.D., Manex Director of Sales and Innovation Excellence

On May 27, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the final rule amending food label requirements.

The final rule amends the labeling regulations for conventional foods and dietary supplements to provide updated nutrition information on the label to assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices with a compliance date of July 26, 2018 for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales, and July 26, 2019 for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales.

The FDA recently extended these dates to January 2020 and January 2021 respectively. The FDA has created a Small Industry Compliance Guide to help companies better understand who needs to be compliant and how to become compliant. The FDA does not intend for the document to serve as legal advice and refers to this document as recommendations for compliance. Upon review of the 38-page document, it notes that all food, including supplements and infant foods must be compliant with the new labeling requirements, but there are some exceptions.

Under 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 101.9(j), product exceptions to the new label requirements generally include:

  1. foods offered for sale by a retailer who has annual gross sales made or business done in sales to consumers that is not more than $500,000;
  2. foods offered for sale by a retailer who has annual gross sales made or business done in sales of food to consumers of not more than $50,000;
  3. medical foods; and
  4. foods that contain insignificant amounts of all nutrients (e.g., coffee beans, tea leaves).

If your small business does not manufacture foods that fall within these four exceptions, then you must be fully compliant with the new rules by January 2021.Compliance with the new labeling requirements can be confusing. For example, section V titled: “Which Nutrients Must Newly be Declared, and What Changes Have Been Made to Nutrients Previously Required or Allowed to be Declared?” provides an example of how to address added sugars and what is considered added sugar.

The guideline states that added sugars are defined as sugars that are either added during the processing of foods, or are packaged as such, and include sugars (free, mono- and disaccharides), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices that are in excess of what would be expected from the same volume of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice of the same type, (21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(iii)). This definition includes single-ingredient foods, such as individually packaged table sugar (see Section V.A.1.(a).(i) and Ref. 1). But there appears to be another twist that can make the new rules confusing and why I believe the FDA is giving smaller manufacturers more time to comply.

For example, the following do not fall under the definition of added sugars. Sugars in fruit or vegetable juice concentrated from 100 percent juices that are sold to consumers (e.g., frozen 100 percent fruit juice concentrate) (21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(iii)).  Sugars in fruit juice concentrates that are used to formulate the fruit component of jellies, jams, or preserves in accordance with the standards of identities set forth in 21 CFR 150.140 and 150.160 (21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(iii)). Sugars in the fruit component of fruit spreads (21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(iii)).  Sugar alcohols and Sugars in juice concentrates that are counted towards percentage juice label declaration under 21 CFR 101.30 for 100 percent juice or 21 CFR 102.33 for juice beverages (21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(iii)). Sugars in juice concentrates that are used to standardize the Brix values of a single species juice consisting of juice directly expressed from a fruit or vegetable in accordance with 21 CFR 102.33(g)(2) (21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(iii)). Naturally-occurring sugars found in milk and dairy ingredients, except lactose as defined in 21 CFR 168.122.

The food labeling laws can be a daunting task, especially if there are product changes or reformulations. The additional year that the FDA has provided to ensure manufacturers are compliant can help businesses become fully compliant with the new food label requirements. Does your business understand the new label rules, and will your business be fully compliant with the new food label requirements on January 1, 2021?

About the Author

Michael Shabaka, Ph.D., is the Director of Sales and Innovation Excellence for Manex. He has over 20 years of business development, sales and marketing experience, spanning several industries including biotech, high tech, publishing, environmental lab services, and the non-profit sector. Dr. Shabaka holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior with a concentration in Transformative Learning and Change from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. He also holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Finance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs from Holy Names College, Oakland. He can be reached at mshabaka@manexconsulting.com.

Posted on

Safety – Organic food health benefits have been hard to assess, but that could change

Grapes harvest. Farmers hands with freshly harvested black grapes.

 

Written by: Cynthia Curl, Assistant Professor, Boise State University
Originally published in The Conversation
16 August 2019

 

“Organic” is more than just a passing fad. Organic food sales totaled a record US$45.2 billion in 2017, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of American agriculture. While a small number of studies have shown associations between organic food consumption and decreased incidence of disease, no studies to date have been designed to answer the question of whether organic food consumption causes an improvement in health.

 

I’m an environmental health scientist who has spent over 20 years studying pesticide exposures in human populations. Last month, my research group published a small study that I believe suggests a path forward to answering the question of whether eating organic food actually improves health.

 

What we don’t know

 

According to the USDA, the organic label does not imply anything about health. In 2015, Miles McEvoy, then chief of the National Organic Program for USDA, refused to speculate about any health benefits of organic food, saying the question wasn’t “relevant” to the National Organic Program. Instead, the USDA’s definition of organic is intended to indicate production methods that “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

 

While some organic consumers may base their purchasing decisions on factors like resource cycling and biodiversity, most report choosing organic because they think it’s healthier.

 

Sixteen years ago, I was part of the first study to look at the potential for an organic diet to reduce pesticide exposure. This study focused on a group of pesticides called organophosphates, which have consistently been associated with negative effects on children’s brain development. We found that children who ate conventional diets had nine times higher exposure to these pesticides than children who ate organic diets.

 

Our study got a lot of attention. But while our results were novel, they didn’t answer the big question. As I told The New York Times in 2003, “People want to know, what does this really mean in terms of the safety of my kid? But we don’t know. Nobody does.” Maybe not my most elegant quote, but it was true then, and it’s still true now.

 

Studies only hint at potential health benefits

 

Health-conscious people want to buy organic for its health benefits, but it’s not yet clear whether such benefits exist.Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock.com

 

 

 

Since 2003, several researchers have looked at whether a short-term switch from a conventional to an organic diet affects pesticide exposure. These studies have lasted one to two weeks and have repeatedly shown that “going organic” can quickly lead to dramatic reductions in exposure to several different classes of pesticides.

 

Still, scientists can’t directly translate these lower exposures to meaningful conclusions about health. The dose makes the poison, and organic diet intervention studies to date have not looked at health outcomes. The same is true for the other purported benefits of organic food. Organic milk has higher levels of healthy omega fatty acids and organic crops have higher antioxidant activity than conventional crops. But are these differences substantial enough to meaningfully impact health? We don’t know. Nobody does.

 

Some epidemiologic research has been directed at this question. Epidemiology is the study of the causes of health and disease in human populations, as opposed to in specific people. Most epidemiologic studies are observational, meaning that researchers look at a group of people with a certain characteristic or behavior, and compare their health to that of a group without that characteristic or behavior. In the case of organic food, that means comparing the health of people who choose to eat organic to those who do not.

 

Several observational studies have shown that people who eat organic food are healthier than those who eat conventional diets. A recent French study followed 70,000 adults for five years and found that those who frequently ate organic developed 25% fewer cancers than those who never ate organic. Other observational studies have shown organic food consumption to be associated with lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, pre-eclampsia and genital birth defects.

 

The problem with drawing firm conclusions from these studies is something epidemiologists call “uncontrolled confounding.” This is the idea that there may be differences between groups that researchers cannot account for. In this case, people who eat organic food are more highly educated, less likely to be overweight or obese, and eat overall healthier diets than conventional consumers. While good observational studies take into account things like education and diet quality, there remains the possibility that some other uncaptured difference between the two groups – beyond the decision to consume organic food – may be responsible for any health differences observed.

 

What next?

 

Often, new medical and health knowledge comes from carefully designed clinical trials, but no such trial has been conducted for organic food. Anyaivanova/Shutterstock.com

 

When clinical researchers want to figure out whether a drug works, they don’t do observational studies. They conduct randomized trials, where they randomly assign some people to take the drug and others to receive placebos or standard care. By randomly assigning people to groups, there’s less potential for uncontrolled confounding.

 

My research group’s recently published study shows how we could feasibly use randomized trial methods to investigate the potential for organic food consumption to affect health.

 

We recruited a small group of pregnant women during their first trimesters. We randomly assigned them to receive weekly deliveries of either organic or conventional produce throughout their second and third trimesters. We then collected a series of urine samples to assess pesticide exposure. We found that those women who received organic produce had significantly lower exposure to certain pesticides (specifically, pyrethroid insecticides) than those who received conventional produce.

 

On the surface, this seems like old news but this study was different in three important ways. First, to our knowledge, it was the longest organic diet intervention to date – by far. It was also the first to occur in pregnant women. Fetal development is potentially the most sensitive period for exposures to neurotoxic agents like pesticides. Finally, in previous organic diet intervention studies, researchers typically changed participants’ entire diets – swapping a fully conventional diet for a fully organic one. In our study, we asked participants to supplement their existing diets with either organic or conventional produce. This is more consistent with the actual dietary habits of most people who eat organic food – occasionally, but not always.

 

Even with just a partial dietary change, we observed a significant difference in pesticide exposure between the two groups. We believe that this study shows that a long-term organic diet intervention can be executed in a way that is effective, realistic and feasible.

 

The next step is to do this same study but in a larger population. We would then want to assess whether there were any resulting differences in the health of the children as they grew older, by measuring neurological outcomes like IQ, memory and incidence of attention-deficit disorders. By randomly assigning women to the organic and conventional groups, we could be sure any differences observed in their children’s health really were due to diet, rather than other factors common among people who consume organic food.

 

The public is sufficiently interested in this question, the organic market is large enough, and the observational studies suggestive enough to justify such a study. Right now, we don’t know if an organic diet improves health, but based on our recent research, I believe we can find out.

 

Posted on

Safety – Blockchain: What is it and does it live up to the hype?

Written by Hillari Bynum
Originally published in Innovation
20 July 2019

 

Hand touching global network connection and data exchanges on sky sunset background. Technology and telecommunication concept.

 

Blockchain Fundamentals

 

The easiest way to understand blockchain technology is to think of it as an electronic notary. A notary protects the integrity of a document by verifying the signer’s identity, making sure they aren’t being forced to sign under duress or intimidation and making sure they’re aware of the contents of the document or transaction. So, when a document is notarized, you can feel confident the document is legitimate.

 

Blockchain serves a very similar function.

 

A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data. It is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.”

 

Therefore, like a notary, Blockchain protects the integrity of the information stored within each block.

 

Why is Blockchain such a buzzword in the Food Industry?

 

During a foodborne illness outbreak, one of the biggest challenges is determining where the contaminated food originated from and where it was distributed/served/sold. There is not an easy way to track down this information; which makes managing a recall, or an outbreak, incredibly tricky, time-consuming, and dangerous.

 

Blockchain could change all of that.

 

Blockchain technology can keep a record of the entire supply chain. If Blockchain were implemented across the food industry, it would be possible to see everywhere a single piece of produce has been — from farm to plate. Consumers and food industry professionals alike would be able to see if a recall had impacted their produce or if it was from the same farm that is being investigated for a foodborne illness outbreak. Cool, right? It doesn’t stop there! This enhanced traceability could also help protect against food fraud by providing a verifiable record or every stage in the supply chain.

 

Okay great, let’s do it.

 

It isn’t that easy. There are a lot of very real obstacles in the way, and there is no easy solution.

 

Slow Supply Chain Adoption

 

In a dream world, when helpful technology is created, people rush to adopt it because they know it is valuable. In the world we actually live in, the reality is much different. Many key stages of the food supply chain operate with very low margins. Growers, packers, slaughterhouses, wholesalers, and harvest companies have very manual processes – and they don’t always have the capital to invest in technology. The other thing these companies are short on is time for training. Successful implementation of a new system requires time, money, and desire. When you’re operating with a shortage of time and money, desire is hard to come by as well. Transparency and traceability are popular ideas throughout the food industry, but when it comes time to actually turn that idea into reality, many companies have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”attitude.

 

The unfortunate reality is that people often pay the cost of food traceability at the early stage of the supply chain (growers, packers, processors) and the benefit is felt the strongest by those at the end of the supply chain (retailers and consumers). What this means is that we are asking the companies with the smallest margins to make the most significant investments – which they are often unwilling or unable to make. It is a fair point, outside of altruism, there is not a clearly defined business benefit to growers — so we are asking them to complicate their process, invest time and money, for little direct benefit.

 

This is particularly damaging because Blockchain won’t be revolutionary if it is only protecting part of the food supply chain. To be completely effective, every piece of the food supply chain needs to be on board.

 

 

Food Fraud is big business

 

Experts estimate that food fraud is now a $40 billion-dollar business. Unfortunately, the people committing food fraud are making a lot of money, and they are likely to be involved at some point in the supply chain. Blockchain and traceability technology threaten this business because of the technological ability to sound alarm bells and alert the world to food fraud. So, to protect their business model, these criminals will fight traceability implementation tooth and nail.

 

Too many independent systems

 

There are a lot of small-to-mid-sized companies offering traceability solutions, but unfortunately, these systems don’t always talk to each other. Blockchain success is heavily dependent on private tech companies being open to working together and sharing their data — which historically, they are not.

 

Traceability is different for different groups

 

Traceability varies by industry and product. For example:

 

  • Agriculture/Farming: Identification starts with the birth of livestock or planting and moves through the growth process, use of pesticides, nutritional records, vet records, and transportation records;
  • Food Processors: Identification starts at the source of each ingredient and follows through the processing, packaging, distribution, and transportation process;
  • Retail and Food Service: Identification starts with receiving receipts/invoices to identify the lot and batch information with regulations not requiring tracking “one-up” to the final consumer;
  • Transportation and Distribution: Commingling points of contact are vectors for the spread of disease. Waybills should contain source party and target party identification. Specific locations are needed for livestock in most countries. If products are disaggregated for smaller shipments, then records need to reflect lot/batch codes of the manufacturer or processor.

 

Different groups have different motivations, and it may be difficult for a system to accommodate the needs of each industry or product.

 

So, does it live up to the hype?

 

The short answer is maybe. Blockchain represents immense possibility, but it also comes with equally immense challenges. If the food industry doubles down on Blockchain and can secure engagement at every phase of the supply chain, the results would be revolutionary. However, if there is only partial adoption of traceability technology, it will be far less successful.

 

There is a reason to be optimistic, however! The FDA recently launched the New Era of Food Safety program that looks ready to move the food industry forward into new traceability technologies.