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  • The Seven HACCP Principles: Retail and Food Service


    The institution of a HACCP plan for management of food safety has long been recognized as a proactive step towards the protection of consumers and businesses alike.  The creation of an alliance between the staff, the facilities, and useful technology is a fundamental part of the execution. While these directives are simple to describe and understand, proper implementation and execution (particularly in retail and food service) of a HACCP plan can be tricky.

    Management (focused around the concept of active managerial control) must strive to implement each of these principles as per the FDA’s direction, and further, must ensure that all important measures and obstacles are clearly communicated to all in-house personnel. The following is a brief of the FDA’s seven HACCP principles. Additional information and the full HACCP manual can be found here.


    (1) Perform the Hazard Analysis:
    • -Understand your personal risks; what hazards and safety procedures apply to you?
    • -Examine cooking, holding, and storage processes and procedures, food preparation methods as well.
    • -Understand the variety of control methods to inform employees and ensure safe practices, such as health policies and rules designed to keep sickened employees away from the kitchen.


    (2) Define the Critical Control Points (abbreviated as CCPs):
    • -Stay specific to essential control measures and the areas where practices must be implemented immediately.


    (3) Define Critical Limits:
    • -Includes temperature parameters and other limits that must be monitored at all times.
    • -Varies by food type and preparation stage
    • -Specifically include all perishable foods and clearly highlight their upper and lower limits.


    (4) Establish Monitoring Procedures for CCPs:
    • -Establish a schedule for monitoring and manual spot-checks of equipment, processes, and environmental factors.
    • -Consider using automated monitoring devices to remove the human from the equation.
    • -Always refer to the critical limits when monitoring to identify problems and anomalies.


    (5) Corrective Action Procedures:
    • -If critical limits are exceeded or not met, implement a plan to dissect the root of the problem, the next logical steps (discard, replace, etc), and any further actions that should be taken to prevent similar issues in the future.
    • -Create a clear line of communication and tie responsibility directly to specific employees. These employees must have proper corrective action training to prevent additional accidents or mishaps. If possible, create a document that outlines the responsibilities of each employee, specific to their individual responses and actions in the event of a problem.


    (6) Verification Procedures
    • -Create a routine wherein observations about equipment, employee habits, and other daily activities are monitored. Measure these observations against FDA best practices and the implemented HACCP plan. Adjust and revise as needed.


    (7) Record Keeping Systems:
    • -Whether in electronic or paper form, keep all important measurement information handy and easily accessible.
    • -The documentation of errors, changes, corrective actions, and all other data points can be important for an inspection, and can also be used for an internal audit of the in-house HACCP plan.
    Temperature@lert Compliance logging and alerting for food safety Guide


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  • HACCP Inspections: Active Managerial Control

    The FDA’s stance on Active Managerial Control

    More now than ever, the active communities of review and ranking sites have provided a clearer window into restaurants and food establishments, and needless to say, this transparency and honest feedback is invaluable to owners and consumers alike. With that said, restaurant owners and operators are also tightening their in-house food safety practices to prevent spoilage and bacterial infestation. In the larger picture, these practices reflect well on the operational capability of the establishment, and also serve to prevent the stigmata of food inspection violations. 

    The FDA has long published documentation on prevention and adherence to the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) preventative approach for food service. Still, many restaurant owners and operators are unaware or unfamiliar with these practices and suggestions, and to this day, health inspectors are suspending licenses and punishing these businesses for failing to comply. While reviews and consumer feedback are invaluable to the welfare of a restaurant or food establishments, these inspections are not to be overlooked or ignored. The following explication of active managerial control serves to inform you about the basics of HACCP, and what you should expect from a visit with the health inspector.

    Temperature@lert HACCP Food Safety Monitoring

    One of the primary objectives of a health inspector is to observe the level of active managerial control, or as the FDA defines “the purposeful incorporation of specific actions or procedures by industry management into the operation of their business to attain control over foodborne illness risk factors.” In short, such actions and procedures are a preventative and proactive approach to food safety, as opposed to reactive post-disaster tactics. Following this approach is critical for any food establishment or restaurant to ensure best practices in the kitchen. The above statement specifically cites foodborne illness risk factors, of which are outlined below.

    • - Food from Unsafe Sources (farms, meatpacking plants, etc)
    • - Inadequate Cooking (to subpar temperatures)
    • - Improper Holding Temperatures
    • - Contaminated Equipment (bacteria, mold, dust, etc.)
    • - Poor Personal Hygiene (for line cooks, chefs, and prep personnel)

    The health inspector will be focusing on these five points of failure as they represent the most sensitive areas for food safety and food consumer protection. There are a number of tactics that can be used to avoid these risk factors, and while some dwell in the neighborhood of common sense, others are not so obvious. The following food safety management tips are taken directly from the Regulator’s Manual for Applying HACCP Principles to Risk-based Retail and Food Service Inspections. Consider this a quick ‘cheatsheet’ for your next inspection, and be sure to employ as many of these smaller strategies to conquer the larger goal of safe food practices. These represent FDA-approved guidelines for HACCP compliance.

    • - Standard Operating Procedures for critical operational steps in a food preparation process. This includes cooling, heating, reheating, and holding.
    • - Recipe Cards or ‘cheatsheets’ that contain specifics steps for individual item preparation. This should include important boundaries such as final cooking temperature, verification, and directives for temporary storage.
    • - Monitoring procedures for preventing bacterial growth, spoilage, and proper cooking/holding temperatures.
    • - Record keeping. These include temperature records, employee records, and equipment maintenance and upkeep documentation.
    • - Health policy for restricting ill employees from the establishment.
    • - Specific goal-oriented plans, such as Risk Control Plans (RCPs) that are used to control specific and more incremental risk factors.

    In the next piece, we’ll dive further into these incremental risk factors and RCPs that can easily be employed in your restaurant or food establishment. Remember that while the world of online reviews can boost your consumer reputation, the food safety management suggestions from above are equally as important for the long-term livelihood of your business.

    Temperature@lert HACCP Food Safety Monitoring

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  • Paper Logs for Temperature Monitoring: The Same Old Mistake

    There are a number of ways to ensure proper storage temperatures in restaurants and food service establishments. With that said, one particular method is becoming obsolete altogether. In the past, paper logs were the primary method of temperature logging. Employees would check temperatures twice daily (generally), and could produce weekly collections of logs from food storage areas. But how efficient is this method, and how is it becoming obsolete? Check out this 4-point list of problems that can surface with manual paper logging, and consider upgrading to an automated system for consistency and compliance.

    1. Time: Even if temperature readings are recorded by a busboy or intern, keep in mind that the constant recording (particularly with many spots to log) can take significant time away from the employee's primary duties. 

    2. Massaged Data: This is a larger "trust" issue if data has been altered or misused, but overall, the possibility of altered data exists with a paper log. Employees can (knowingly or by mistake) record false temperature readings that may indicate a failure or possible temperature excursion. There is no excuse for an employee that fails to indicate potential changes. 

    3. Lost reports: If the health department requires you to produce temperature readings that span back a few months (or to a randomized date), paper logs create a variety of issues if organization is poor. Daily logs (365 in a year) can be easily lost amidst a mountain of paperwork, and pinpointing exact dates can be extremely cumbersome. Owners may have to comb through a mountain of disorganized data, and the realization that the data may be "missing" can have serious consequences when the health department arrives.

    4. Inadequate reporting: Especially with the example of twice-daily checks, temperatures may fluctuate significantly in the 12 hours between temperature recordings. Food safety dictates that if certain foods are left exposed to low/high temperatures for 2 hours or longer, disposal may be the only option. Temperature readings may seem normal during the first check, but a temporary failure (that lasts 2-3 hours) cannot be accounted for when the second recordings are taken. This "dead zone" of lost readings can hold important clues for possible variations or issues, whether they're specific to the HVAC system or the actual refrigeration/freezer unit.

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  • Top 5 Consequences of Monitoring Failures

    For a variety of industries and applications, failing to monitor temperature can set off a chain reaction of problems and frustration. From lost research, to tained vaccines, to spoiled food costing thousands of dollars, temperature monitoring is a concept that shouldn't be ignored, overlooked, or passively addressed. Check out these common disasters that can arise from the lack of a monitoring system, and prevent these from becoming your reality:

    1. Melting Servers and IT Equipment: For the banking sector in particular, melted servers are the equivalent to a data meltdown. Employees will often arrive at the office on Monday, only to walk directly into a sauna-like server room.


    2. Melted Ice Cream: Many ice cream vendors live and die by their freezer systems. The delicacy must dwell within a certain range in the freezer, and without a monitoring system, countless dollars are lost when the ice cream melts. 

    3. Food Safety Violations: When inspected by the health department, many restaurants and cafes face stiff penalties if refrigerated and/or frozen products aren't properly monitored. Beyond the health department, contaminated food leads to sickness, lawsuits, wasted food, and perhaps all three. 


    4. Tainted Vaccines: Many stories have come up recently about vaccine contamination and misuse, and the root cause is typically due to a temperature monitoring failure. The Harvard Brain Bank was an unfortunate example of this problem.


    5. Mold in the Home: Vacation homes are at risk for mold contamination, particularily if left unoccupied for long periods of tie. Owners will often arrive at the home to find an outbreak of mold because humidity levels had been elevated for several weeks unbeknownst to them. 

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  • Understanding Food Labels and Leftovers

    Keep these simple reference points in mind when reading food labels and sifting through stored leftovers. These tips should serve as basic guidelines for food storage and handling, and are not derived from official FDA or USDA regulations/specifications.

    Food Label Types

    • "Pull Date" or "Sell By": This is the time by which foods are acceptable for display in a store. These foods (if sold after the date) are still safe to eat, but safe food preparation and handling are still applicable. This guideline is used by stores/supermarkets as a logistical reference point for consumables, and doesn't necessarily translate to guidelines for consumption/storage in the home.

    • "Best if used by": At the date given, the food item has reached the official freshness threshhold, by which the quality or flavor (after the given date) will decrease at a certain rate. Keep caution when preparing these foods (if being used after this date), as their shelf life decreases with each passing day. Make note of how many days/weeks have passed since the "best used by" date, and evaluate these for spoilage and contamination.

    • "Expiration Date": This is the finite deadline for milk and other perishables (not including eggs). Typically these expiration dates are backed by scientific research, and are usually accurate (milk in particular). Immediately discard any foods that have breached this threshold, and make note of other items/products that are due to expire.

    • "Pack Date": The date in which the food was processed or packaged. Keep in mind that the logistics (delivery etc) affect these dates, such that a "packed item" may reach shelves days after processing or packaging, but is nevertheless fit for consumption (these items are typically non-perishable)

       

    Quick Leftover Tips 

    •  Refrigerate/Freeze foods in shallow (less than 4 inches deep) containers up to 2 hours after cooking. Air space around the edges of the container is one strategy that enables quicker cooling and circulation of cold air within the container.

    • Label all storages with the suggested expiration date (or any information that can be taken from the existing label). This will prevent others from eating leftovers that have passed their expiration date. Keep a succinct chart of storage times for refrigeration/freezer items, and mark the leftovers with the date of storage, the date of potential (or definitive) expiration, and be sure to discard when in doubt.

    • Reheat leftovers to approximately 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Soups and liquids should be reheated to a continuous boil.



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  • We Have Launched a Full Services Arm

    After creating an extensive line of environmental monitoring devices for a range of conditions (including humidity, flood, and soil moisture), the services arm expands our ability to assist clients who require more than the “out-of-the-box” solution. Our services arm specifically includes nationwide installation, customized software & sensor development, private labeling / OEM, and verification/validation services.
     
    The expansion of our offerings is critical to Temperature@lert's development. Enterprise clients are often seeking a fully-fledged, customized solution for industry-specific applications, in line with the development and advancement of our remotetemperature monitoring devices. From implementation of a fault-tolerant solution for IT server rooms, to pharmaceutical refrigerators and food service kitchens; our services arm can meet the needs of Enterprise clients that require installation, customization, private labeling, and meeting compliance regulations.

    “Temperature@lert products are the easiest to use for out of the box environmental monitoring. We're confident you'll be up and running in no time,” states Harry Schechter, CEO/President of Temperature@lert. “However, there are times when you run up against a challenge and need just a bit more out of your investment. With the modular and open nature of our products, we believe there's always a way to customize or engineer new solutions to fit your exact specifications. With this belief is how our services arm was launched.“
     
    For more information on Temperature@lert’s latest service offerings, please visit:http://www.temperaturealert.com/Remote-Temperature/Services.aspx.

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  • Is It Done Yet? Safe Temperatures That Keep the Germs Away

    In order to keep your perishable foods safe to eat, it needs to be maintained at certain temperatures throughout the entire cold chain to serving. This is necessary to keeping your food out of the danger zone as previously discussed. There are a variety of germs that can grow on your food when kept at improper temperatures. To ensure the safety of your diner, it is critical to consider what temperatures your hot cooked foods are reaching in order to kill off germs. By following the USDA list of recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for at least 15 seconds that would kill the bacteria:

    -Steak & Roast: 145°F

    -Hamburger & Ground Beef: 160°F

    -Veal: 145°F

    -Lamb: 145°F

    -Fish: 145°F

    -Pork: 160°F

    -Eggs: 160°F

    -Chicken Breasts: 165°F

    -Poultry: 165°F

    -Casseroles: 165°F

    By following such guidelines, you can kill germs/bacteria before they infect your diner. According to the CDC, "[estimated] that every year about 48 million people in the United States become ill from harmful bacteria in food; of these, about 3,000 die". The most common bacteria found in food services that are cause by improper temperatures are:

    -Botulism: found in canned and vacuum-packaged foods

    -Campylo-bacter: found in undercooked meat, poultry, shellfish, and raw milk

    -E. Coli: found in raw vegetables, unpasteurized fruit juice, and undercooked ground beef

    -Salmonella: found in undercooked chicken, raw vegetables and eggs

    There are other bacteria found in food services, such as: Hepatitis A, Listeria, Norovirus, Shigellosis, and Staph Infection. Those bacteria are caused by poor hygiene, cross-contamination, and improper food preparation. By having such food mishandling, the diner is doomed to at least an awful case of food poisoning if not worse. Not to mention the health violations that your establishment can incur from not following the best practices for food services and handling.

    Always remember to clean, separate, cook, and chill your foods to maintain the proper temperatures. It's not enough to just store your food at proper temperatures, it's crucial to cook your food to the proper temperatures too! Monitor your food temperatures at every step to avoid causing your diner harm.

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  • Vaccine Retrieval and Storage: Power Outages

    For most of us, a power outage is a sudden and temporary inconvenience that leaves us without our beloved gadgets and internet (that is, until the battery in your iPhone dies). But for vaccine storage, it's clear that a power outage brings larger and more troublesome obstacles. 

    It is virtually unavoidable to prevent all power failures. Storage faciilities must have back-up plans and back-up equipment to prepare for a power outage. Courtesy of the CDC's latest toolkit, here are a few procedures that you should be implementing in your power outage solution.

     

    1. Do not allow vaccines to remain in a nonfunctioning unit for an extended period of time, if you cannot forsee an immediate 'uptime' for the facility. 

    A homeowner might know this one instinctively; a power outage that lasts several hours can compromise the food in a home refrigerator/freezer. Though the food may be able to sustain an hour or two without cooling, it will eventually become a breeding ground for bacteria. Vaccines, on the other hand, are only effective when the temperature is kept within the required range. Avoid this by moving vaccines into emergency/secondary storage units as soon as possible after an outage.

    Generally, for attenuated vaccines (of which contain a weakened form of the actual virus), exposure to heat and light can compromise the contents. Be sure to move these vaccines to cooler zones immediately during a power outage. On the opposite side, inactivated vaccines are sensitive to freezing temperatures. However, it is difficult to determine whether inactived vaccines are frozen/affected by variable temperatures, and a simple "eye test" is never sufficient. Stay tuned for next weeks post on the differences between attenuated and inactivated vaccines.

     

     

    2. If you are certain that power will be restored before comprimising temperatures can settle in, continue to use caution and be safe, not sorry.

    Do NOT open a storage unit door until the power has been completely restored. Even if the outage is temporary, make sure to avoid exposing vaccines to uncontrolled and uncertain temperatures. Vaccine storage is really a calculated science, and the environment outside of the storage unit represents uncertainty, fluctuation, and variation (not helpful). Whereas on the inside, the temperature and climate are controlled, certain, and show very little fluctuation (ideal for vaccines). In an outage, keep vaccines in their proper dwelling, and be sure not to disturb the natural (and controlled) temperature within the units.

     

    3. Once power is restored:

     Check all refrigerators and freezers that have been affected by the loss of power. make sure to to mark storage units that have moved beyond their set thresholds (Refrigerator 2C-8C , Freezer -50C and -15C). Document the changes in temperature from the thresholds, and make sure to indicate how long vaccines were out of their required range. Such information is highly useful for disaster recovery plans, and can provide insight for future outages. If you ever have  suspicions about a vaccine(s) after a power outage, be sure to mark these with a "DO NOT USE" label and store them seperately. The key is to isolate the affected vaccines, and ensure that they're handled carefully after a power outage. With thorough planning, robust procedures, and attention to detail, affected vaccines can be recovered and bacterial growth can be averted afrer power outages.

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  • Where to place a Temperature Sensor: Vaccine Refrigeration

    After the recent blog article about buffer vials (Glycol vs. Sand), we recognize that sensor placement is equally important fortemperature monitoring. Despite what we may know about the "temperature settings" for a refrigerator, the fact remains that several variables affect the average temperature within. Understanding "microclimates" within a refrigerator is important in determining ideal sensor placement. The following two variables are the most common contributors to these "microclimates":

    Defrost cycles routinely affect the temperature within a commercial refrigeration or vaccine storage unit. In simple terms, a defrost cycle is triggered to prevent buildup of frost on the evaporator coil, the key component of a refrigeration system. As the refrigerator frequently prevents frost buildup, defrost cycles will account for the most extreme temperature changes in an average day.

    Cooling Cycles, a common feature of any refrigeration system, can also significantly affect internal temperatures. Cooling cycles will vary to maintain a consistent temperature (preselected by you), and can account for small, periodic fluctuations in temperature.

     

    How significant are these variations? Are these variables important to the storage of vaccines, a particularily sensitive application that has little flexibility for temperature change? The answer is yes. Defrost cycles can change temperatures by up to 9°C within a refrigerator. Kudos to NIST.gov for this visual representation of temperature change within a Refrigerator. Even for commercial-grade refrigerators, these changes still occur.

    • #9: (Air-Top) shows the relative cycles, marked by the large peaks and valleys.
    • Temperatures of the "Lower Wall" are affected more by the defrost cycles than  the "Mid Wall".
    • The "Lower Wall" maintains a higher temperature (8>7) than the "Mid Wall".
    • Glycol vials  maintain temperatures that are only slightly affected by standard variables.
    • Overall, the only consistent 'zone' is the center of the "Middle" of the refrigerator. Buffer vials in this zone (Glycol or Sand) are relatively untouched by defrosting and/or cooling.

    describe the imagecommercial refrigeration

    Monitoring temperature in the correct 'areas' is a key consideration, particularily for vaccine storage. We can see thatrefrigerator air varies in temperature from 1-10°C, and this can compromise the safety of a vaccine. Check out this chart (via KDHeks.gov) for helpful tips on sensor placement for vaccine refrigeration, and be sure to keep variation in mind when placing temperature sensors!


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  • Is Your Food Ripe for Bacterial Growth?

    Refrigerators, freezers, steam tables, and food prep areas are all known sources of bacterial growth when proper temperatures are not maintained. Of course there are paper logs and thermometers that you can place in these areas, but what happens when that person who is supposed to be monitoring is absent, or if the thermometer malfunctions? Who ismonitoring the system for monitoring?

    When a temperature monitoring system is not fault tolerant, this leaves food and beverages dependent on proper temperature storage extremely vulnerable for bacterial growth. Cooking food at the proper temperature is not the only determinant for killing bacteria. Even after food is cooked for prep, they are stored in a food prep area such assteam trays that must be maintained at 150°F in order to prevent bacterial growth. Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria are some of the bacteria that can grow when cooked food drops below 135°F.

    For cold food storage, the maximum temperature is 41°F. Anything above this can cause bacteria growth. Failure to store food within temperature thresholds is a critical health violation found in many restaurants, cafeterias, and other areas for food service when proper temperature monitoring procedures are not followed.

    Although temperature monitoring is frequently overlooked, we cannot overlook the effects caused by lack of monitoring.Besides spoilage and contamination, there are the health effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms, vomiting, GI issues, and diarrhea. A single strand of bacterium can cause such stomach upset, due to the fact that no one is monitoring the monitoring system. This is when a fault-tolerant system comes in handy!

    Fault-tolerant systems would be able to alert you of temperature issues before one arises. Not to mention, it would alleviate the pressure of frequently checking temperatures when one does not have the timeLearn more about proper food storage from our FREE Cheat Sheet in Food Service Monitoring!

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