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  • Batteries, AC or PoE: So Many (Power) Choices, So Little Time

    Choosing the right WTM electrical power source for each organization often requires testing.


    The previous piece in this series takes a look at Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) device configuration options as a prelude to helping understand and select the optimal power source option for each site. Because Temperature Monitoring systems can be both wired and wireless, it is important to understand both options exist.

    NYC Hospital Queens installed a WTM system to monitor medications and blood in hospital refrigerators, an effort that is featured on the website Pharmacy Purchasing & Products. (Link to PPP Article) To be fair the WTM system deployed was not 100% wireless. According to the author, the system uses wireless temperature sensors that communicate through a gateway to the hospital’s network. The wireless receivers used require 110 VAC electrical connections (household plugs). The 120 VAC powered receivers which can also be described as gateways would normally be plugged in, collect data wirelessly from the sensors and send the accumulated readings wirelessly to the hospital’s IT network.

    In the case of NYC Hospital Queens most receivers were installed above the ceiling tiles where there were no electrical outlets. In such cases the site would normally need to install electrical outlets which can add considerable expense to the project; this was the case for NYC Hospital Queens. In this case however, the receivers or gateways chosen had a second power option, PoE or Power Over Ethernet. In the PoE configuration the gateways are connected directly to the hospital’s IT network via LAN (Ethernet) cables. Not all devices can take advantage of this mode of operation and not all LAN installations are designed to provide PoE, but in this case the PoE option was the easiest and least costly to implement.



    Examples of network cameras showing non-PoE and two PoE configurations. (Link to Source)

    Among the electrical power options for WTM devices, AC power and PoE are generally considered the most reliable and available unless the site has a history of blackouts or brownouts. And sites like hospitals often have emergency generators that keep critical systems operating during power outages, so even utility outages may not pose a problem. Additionally, AC powered WTM devices can be connected to inexpensive Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPSs) that allow the device to continue to operate when AC power is interrupted. In the UPS powered case, however, if the site’s IT network is down the WTM device may not be able to transmit its data. The UPS powered device is likely able to continue to monitor temperatures so that when communication is reestablished there will be a full data set for hospital policy and regulatory purposes.

    The alternative to AC or PoE is battery power, which needs to be assessed carefully to meet the site’s expectations and specifications. Cell phone technology has made many if not most readers of this piece aware how significant an issue battery life can be as related to wireless devices. Battery powered sensors will need recharging or battery replacement. The frequency of recharging or replacement will be determined by two factors: (1) wireless transmitter power (largely related to range or overcoming interference from walls, furnshings, equipment, etc.); (2) temperature sampling/data transmission rate (largely related to site policies or regulatory requirements). Needless to say, no organization would willingly take on a device that requires frequent battery changes, say each month or each calendar quarter) to maintain quality records.


    Battery life vs. data transmission demonstrates that higher sensor data sampling and transmission rates will result in lower battery life. (Link to Source)

    When selecting battery operated sensors for WTM systems a thorough understanding of the temperature sampling requirements is needed to determine sampling rate and transmission frequency to meet regulatory or hospital policy needs. In general five (5) minute sampling is sufficient to help insure temperature sensitive medications and materials are not exposed to temperature that can degrade product safety or efficacy. When refrigerator doors are left open for a few minutes medication vials, for example, do not become overly warm. Only after ten to fifteen minutes or longer in the case of larger quantities of material will the materials in the vials begin to be exposed to harmful temperatures. With five (5) minute sampling an alert will be sent at the next five minute interval, letting hospital staff know temperature excursions have been seen and the refrigerator unit needs to be checked.

    Whether or not AC, PoE, battery or a combination of these electrical power sources meets site’s needs, specifications and expectations will take time and effort to determine. An evaluation of any WTM device to determine if it provides sufficient transmission range, sampling and reporting rate, temperature alert level(s), and response times to meet specifications and expectations is strongly recommended before committing to any particular supplier.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • Wireless Technology Choices for Temperature Monitoring Sensors - Part 2

    WTM device claims about Transmission Range need closer scrutiny.

    Part 1 of this title examined data rate factors in selecting Wireless Temperature Monitor devices from the graphic below. Essentially, data rate is not ever a factor since the monitoring interval for medical refrigeration WTM devices is in the order of minutes and produces very small amounts of data. The only time data rate could be a factor is if the refrigerator is monitored every second or less and a number of additional parameters was being transmitted, however even this would not be a factor in many cases since, again, the amount of data is small. There may be a case where rate is a factor if, for example, high definition video transmission was added to the data. Since such systems when in use are generally part of the facility’s security systems, data rate should not be concern when evaluating WTM devices for hospital refrigeration monitoring.


    Comparison of range vs. peak data rate for wireless communication technologies used in Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) devices. (Link to Source)

    Range, unlike data rate is a factor that needs to be understood when making a WTM system selection. This is for several reasons. First, wireless technology included a wireless transmitter and the transmitted data needs to be able to reach the corresponding wireless receiver, either the facility’s wireless network or a dedicated device provided by the supplier. In some cases where several wireless temperature sensors are communicating with a single receiver, even more care is needed to insure robust communication.

    Another factor inherent in range but not generally acknowledged is interference from the facility itself. Factors such as walls, medical or infrastructure equipment, furniture and file cabinets and in cases where the WTM device is entirely inside the refrigerator, the refrigerator itself. Claims about range are almost always based on optimal conditions: line of sight in air. Qualifiers that the WTM device’s range may vary depending on interference from objects in the immediate vicinity are offered. (Full disclosure: Temperature@lert offers both a Line of Sight and Indoor/Urban specification for its wireless devices.) These are reasonable qualifiers.

    The table below provides another view of the presentation in the graphic above. In the Range row wireless options are generally noted as a range, 10 to 100 meters in the case of WiFi, for example. Those who use WiFi networks and portable devices in their homes or work can attest to the variability of signal strength as they move away from the WiFi router (transmitter/receiver) or move into an area that is heavily furnished or shielded by a number of walls between the portable device and the WiFi router.


    Comparison of Wireless Networking Technologies used in WTM Systems. (Link to Source)

    Because range is such an important but difficult to absolutely specify parameter when choosing a wireless temperature monitor experimentation with a test device from the WTM supplier is recommended. A single device is usually sufficient since it can be moved around the facility to determine the suitability in different locations and under different conditions. Recording the results for a few minutes at each location is all that is needed since the signal is either there or not there, and the data stream is either coherent or not. Again, experience with home WiFi networks are instructive.

    The next piece in this series will examine a WTM device parameter closely tied to data rate and range, power source type and the effects on performance.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.


    Free Temperature@lert eBook



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • Wireless Technology Choices for Temperature Monitoring Sensors - Part 1

    You don’t need to be a geek or nerd to make the right wireless choice for refrigeration monitors.

    As seen in the previous piece in this series titled NYC Hospital Examines WTM (Wireless Temperature Monitoring) Options, there are several factors to consider in understanding which device will work best to help protect the safety and efficacy of temperature sensitive medicines such as vaccines. Among the ones explored were battery or AC power (or both!) and the use of sensor buffer vials.

    The heart of WTM sensors is the wireless technology itself. Wireless sensors can be easier to install since they do not need to be connected to the site’s IT network via LAN cables. Those that operate solely on battery powered can be easily placed anywhere, some would claim, although that is not exactly true and comes to the heart of the matter: WTM devices are like Kryptonite confronting lead, they cannot penetrate everything. And those limitations are dictated by the wireless technology embedded in the device. So a look at the offerings and some words about their suitability under various circumstances is called for.


    Comparison of range vs. peak data rate for wireless communication technologies used in Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) devices. (Link to Source)

    Peak data rate is one of the factors for wireless communications. For WTM devices peak data rate is almost never an issue. Unlike computers, tablets and smartphones that are uploading or downloading megabytes of data very quickly, temperature readings contain very little data (temperature, date, time, device ID, etc.), a few to several bytes for each reading. And because refrigeration monitoring almost never requires continuous monitoring, every second for example, the number of transmissions is small. This is because of two factors. First, WTM devices that report and send alarm or alerting messages if the temperature changes from one second to the next will invariably send out dozens if not hundreds of alerts that are non actionable, a refrigerator door is left open for 30 to 60 seconds for example. Medications in the refrigerator are not at risk when this happens. They are at risk if the temperature rises above the alert level and stays there for several minutes. This is one reason buffer vials are used, to dampen out momentary temperature spikes that are not meaningful.

    Medical refrigerator with door open for several seconds or even a minute does not generally put medications at risk. Using a sensor buffer vial can give better insight to temperatures of medications during excursions. (Link to Image Source)

    WTM devices are typically set to read and transmit the temperature every few minutes, 2 to 5 minutes for example and in some cases every 10 to 15 minutes. At one site a large medical freezer is monitored every 15 minutes because the staff knows that with the door closed they have up to six hours to recover or move sensitive materials to another unit without exceeding temperature limits. Each hospital will need to experiment with monitoring intervals and temperature limit settings to find the right balance between too much and too little. This generally happens quickly, especially if very tight limits and frequent monitoring is chosen in the start. Getting dozens of notifications when staff is searching for a medication or several door openings occur within a relatively short time will help find the balance to insure medication safety and efficacy.

    The next piece in this series will explore the range portion of the graphic.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and SensorCloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.

    free Temperature@lert eBook



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • TJC Compliance Study takes a Closer Look at Hospital Refrigeration

    Hospital uncovers problems with patient care refrigerators during WTM evaluation..

    As discussed in the first piece in this series, The Joint Commission is a member based organization that develops standards and best practices in partnership with its healthcare member organizations such as hospitals, medical practices and pharmacies insure their patients and clients receive safe, effective quality care.  The series is prompted by a piece on the Pharmacy Purchasing & Products website describing the use of Wireless Temperature Monitoring (WTM) systems to monitor medication refrigeration.   (Link to PPP Article)

    A closer look at the Medication Monitoring chapter in one of TJC’s documents describing Medication Management in Hospitals (Link to TJC Document) finds several areas that address temperature monitoring in refrigeration used to store medication.

    A search of TJC’s website’s Standards FAQ (Link to TJC FAQ) for Medication Management (CAMH/Hospitals) finds the following regarding Medication Refrigeration Temperature Logs.


    FAQ: Medication Refrigeration Temperature Logs    

    Updated | November 24, 2008

    Q:  Are we required to maintain temperature logs for medication storage refrigerators and freezers?    

    A:  Joint Commission does not specifically require temperature logs for refrigerators and freezers used for medication storage. Standard MM.03.01.01, EP2 requires that medications be stored according to manufacturer's recommendations.  Additionally, EC. 01.01.01 requires that organization describes and implement processes to maintain and monitor equipment performance. If your organization chooses to use temperature monitoring to achieve this, the monitoring method must track temperature in an ongoing fashion to indicate whether or not internal temperature has deviated from the required ranges for all drugs stored. In addition, the organization should have a defined process outlining disposition of medication from a refrigerator or freezer which has deviated from the recommended temperature range.

    While organizations are not specifically required to refrigerator temperature logs, there is a requirement to store them in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations.  As the FAQ notes, other chapters refer to ensuring equipment is operational and maintained.  Taken in the whole, monitoring of medication temperatures can meet these requirements.  And while manual monitoring and recording temperatures is one way to meet this requirement, in many cases hospital staff duties as well as day to day challenges can lead to gaps in the data on days where time normally allocated for manual monitoring is used for more urgent needs.



    New York Hospital Queens is the site of the WTM study (Link to Source)


    The Pharmacy Purchasing & Products website piece describes a study by a 540-bed hospital in New York City wherein a mock accreditation was conducted.  The author noted the “mock surveys identified that our method of manually documenting temperatures in refrigerators and freezers storing medication, nutrition products, and blood products was insufficient, and created the risk of a potential regulatory citation.”


    This is not an uncommon experience in medicine storage applications.  The lack of a robust review of current practices can often lead to the uncovering of flaws when dedicated resources are used to examine these practices and compare them to industry best practices.  However, factors such as the suitability of hospital, pharmacy, or medical office equipment and infrastructure to meet and maintain regulatory guidelines can also come into play and may want to be examined before implementing robust monitoring technologies.


    To that end, prior to committing hospital personnel and financial resources to a WTM system an audit of the ability of the existing refrigerators was undertaken and found that many of the units in patient care areas were small household units not capable of maintaining temperatures within required ranges for medication, blood and nutrition products.  The hospital replaced these units with medical grade, under the counter, programmable refrigerators before undertaking an evaluation of Wireless Temperature Monitoring systems.


    Dorm grade compact refrigerator (left) costs around $250 (Link to Source) compared to hospital grade compact refrigerator (right) that can cost $600, $900 or more (Link to Source).  Hospitals using non-medical grade refrigeration will be well served by monitoring performance over time and during different parts of the day and usage to determine if the device can maintain medicines, blood and other products used in patient treatment at recommended temperatures to assure efficacy and safety.

    The next piece in this series will examine the WTM evaluation experience including technology and configuration options and installation considerations.  Future pieces will focus on technical and practical information regarding temperature sensitive medicines storage best practices, monitoring technologies, and implementation strategies that include both wireless and wired, fault tolerant and cloud based solutions to provide a complete picture of options available and associated costs and benefits.

    Temperature@ert’s WiFi, Cellular and ZPoint product offerings linked to the company’s Sensor Cloud platform provides a cost effective solution for organizations of all sizes. The products and services can help bring a laboratory or medical practice into compliance with minimum training or effort. For information about Temperature@lert’s Cellular and SensorCloud offerings, visit our website at http://www.temperaturealert.com/ or call us at +1-866-524-3540.



    Written By:

    Dave Ruede, Well-Versed Wordsmith

    Dave Ruede, a dyed in the wool Connecticut Yankee, has been involved with high tech companies for the past three decades. His background in chemistry and experience in a multitude of industries such as industrial chemicals and systems, pulp and paper, semiconductor fabrication, data centers, and test and assembly facilities informs his work daily. Well-versed in sales, marketing, management, and business development, Dave brings real world experience to Temperature@lert. When not crafting new Temperature@lert projects, Dave enjoys spending time with his young granddaughter, who keeps him grounded to the simple joys in life. Such joys for this wordsmith include reading prize winning fiction and non-fiction. Although a Connecticut Yankee, living for a decade in coastal California’s not too hot, not too cold climate epitomizes Dave’s favorite temperature, 75°F.

    Temperature@lert Dave Ruede

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  • Monitoring Food Cooling Processes in Restaurants

    Last week we briefly introduced how Temperature@lert could help the food suppliers remotely monitor food temperature during transportation, and this week we’d like to share some crucial knowledge on the topic of temperature monitoring during food cooling—a process wherein the majority of the restaurants in the U.S. fail to meet the FDA recommendations.

    The notion that improper cooling processes of hot food will very likely lead to foodborne illness is a well known fact—between 1998 and 2008, inadequate food cooling processes in restaurants led to 504 outbreaks in the United States alone. The shocking nature of that statistic exposes the critical improvements needed to be made to the sectors within food preparation, along with the necessary implementation of stricter monitoring procedures during the cooling process.


    The FDA’s Food Code provides detailed guidelines for food service establishments to reduce pathogen proliferation during the cooling processes. The FDA explicitly states that for potentially hazardous food, time-temperature control is necessary to keep food safe before consumption. The food has to be cooled “rapidly” in order to minimize the amount of time that the food temperature is within the danger zone (40°-140°F). For instance, the food temperature has to drop from 135° to 70°F within 2 hours, and from 70° to 41°F in no less than 4 additional hours.

    Cooling processes (a critical step in food preparation) should be tested, verified, and monitored. The FDA Food Code recommends temperature monitoring on an ongoing basis, and the obtained temperature data should be recorded for future verification.

    In a research project conducted by Brown et al, 420 restaurant managers were interviewed on the food cooling practices in their working site. Only 20% of them admitted that the food cooling regulations in their jurisdiction were consistent with the FDA’s recommendations. 60% of the managers said the food cooling practices were monitored on a routine basis—half of those calibrated the thermometers weekly. But 6% of the restaurants had never calibrated their thermometers. In 79% of the observations, the food was not cooled to the required temperature on time. Given the information, it won’t surprise anyone to learn that 85.5% of the managers reported cooling processes that did not meet all FDA recommended components.

    In order to prevent customer exposure to food borne illness, restaurants must follow FDA’s recommended guidelines in all the steps of food preparation. We suggest that restaurants implement rapid cooling as well as temperature monitoring in order to keep food out of the danger zone. Temperature@lert products can help you efficiently monitor the temperature during the food cooling process as well as in storage. Please feel free to contact info@temperaturealert.com for solution recommendations.

    Temperature@lert Food Service Refrigeration Monitoring Guide




    References

    Brown, L,G, Ripley, D, Blade,H, Reimann, D, Everstine, K, Nicholas, D, Egan, J, Koktavy, N, Quilliam, D,N, EHS-NET Working Group. “Restaurant Food Cooling Practices”. Journal of Food Protection, (75:12), 2012, 2172-2178.

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Limitation of growth of organisms of public health concern”. Food Code. 2009. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Retail FoodProtection/FoodCode/FoodCode2009/ucm186451.htm#part3-5. Accessed 24 April 2012.

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  • Pathogenic Bacteria Growth and Temperature: Tied at the Hip

    We know from our previous posts that HACCP compliance, specific to seafood, specifically highlights temperature control as a critical preventative method against pathogenic growth and toxin formation. In short, these methods of temperature control are designed to protect both food establishments (in maintaining safe practices) and consumers (in preventing foodborne illnesses). This FDA list outlines pathogens that are common in seafood and thereby represent the biggest threats to consumer safety.

         - Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes)

         - Vibrio vulniicus (V. vulniicus)

         - Vibrio parahaemolyticus (V. parahaemolyticus)

         - Vibrio cholera (V. cholera)

         - Escherichia coli (E. coli)

         - Salmonella spp.

         - Shigella spp.

         - Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) j,

         - Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens)

         - Bacillus cereus (B. cereus)

         - Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni)

         - Yersinia enterocolitica (Y. enterocolitica)

      

    And yet, the list of common pathogens isn’t enough. There are several “process points” by which these pathogens can become an issue, and these include unsanitary utensils and equipments, cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, as well as several others. The overall goal is to maintain temperatures that prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, as in the examples listed above. One must consider the types of bacteria that may be present, their growth rates within the food, and the initial expectation for pathogenic presence. Capping the growth rates of these pathogens with temperature control is the biggest obstacle to overcome, as a “0%” pathogen presence is nearly impossible. To this, the FDA offers this advice:

    “In other words, product temperatures should be maintained below the minimum growth temperature for the pathogen or should not be allowed to exceed that temperature for longer than the lag growth phase (i.e., the slow growth phase during which a pathogenic bacteria acclimates to its environment before proceeding to rapid growth) of the pathogenic bacteria at the exposure temperature.”

    Further, the strategies for control of pathogenic bacteria in seafood are clearly outlined by the FDA in the same document. Control of moisture and temperature are the most important factors within these respective strategies. This is an abridged list of the FDA’s strategic suggestions, and for more information on FDA best practices and suggestions, visit the link at the footer of this post.


         1. Management of Time/Temperature: Manage the time by which seafood is exposed to temperatures that encourage      rapid bacterial growth.

         2. Retroactive Revitalization: Kill pathogens and other bacteria with methods such as re-cooking, pasteurization, and/or      retortion.

         3. Moisture Control: Use drying and safe holding practices to control the amount of moisture that is available for growth.

         4. Salt Control: Observe, document, and adjust the amount of preservatives like sodium nitrite in the food.

         5. Acid Control: Observe, document, and adjust the pH levels in the food.

    Free Temperature@lert Monitoring Guide for Food Service


    FDA.Gov: Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, Fourth Edition, April 2011



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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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  • FDA & HACCP Guidelines for Fish and Fishery Products

    HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) guidelines have received significant media coverage in the past few months. The coverage includes suggestions for implementation, calls for improvement and reexamination of existing plans, and the feared distribution of FDA-driven warning letters. In fact, The first letters of 2014 were just distributed to a seafood processor and dairy operator, citing “serious violations of the seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation and Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulation for foods during an inspection” .

    Along the lines of seafood, there are very specific (and sensitive) guidelines of a seafood-based HACCP plan. While the guidelines and lists can appear overwhelming to confront, they are critical for seafood distributors and handlers. Seafood is especially prone to bacterial infection, and is extremely sensitive to temperature control.  One of the more common toxins, Scombrotoxin, is usually found in the Scombridae fish family. This family includes many household favorites such as tuna, mackerel, and bonito. The FDA has listed monitoring guidelines for specifically preventing a scombroxtin outbreak in distributed refrigerated seafood, and the following list is taken directly from the FDA’s Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Control Guidance (Fourth Edition) booklet.

    http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/49/4916/5ZW9G00Z/posters/close-up-of-fish-of-the-scombridae-family.jpg

     

    What to Monitor (refrigerated scombrotoxin-forming fish)

    -Internal temperature of fish during transport

    -Ambient temperature of the seafood storage in the transit vehicle

     

    How to Monitor (refrigerated scombrotoxin-forming fish)

    -Use of a continuous monitoring device that records temperature for both internal temperature and ambient air temperature of the transport vehicle.

    -If possible, use a modest sample size for internal product testing and maintain a comprehensive log of temperatures for historical reference

     

    Frequency

    -Depending on the transit time, this may vary. As a general FDA rule, a monitoring system should be able to provide a fairly granular view of temperature data. Suggested practices indicate that temperatures should be measured four (4) times per hour, or once every 15 minutes.

     

    Who Should Monitor

    -The automated device will perform the actual monitoring. However, employees should make a periodic visual inspection of the data to note any drastic temperature excursions,  anomalies or missing data, and the overall functionality of the device.

     

    For more information about the FDA’s regulations and HACCP guidelines for seafood, please visit http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/UCM251970.pdf.


    Temperature@lert Free Food Service Refrigeration Monitoring 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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  • Two Days Left @ NRA Show 2013!

    Have you met the Temperature@lert team yet? Come down to the McCormick Center in Chicago from the 18th through the 21st (this weekend!) and meet with our CEO & President: Harry Schechter, our Brave Business Developer: Mark Langley, our Advertising Acrobat: Diane Deng, and our B2B Bees: Benny Bridger. Find us at Booth #6383!



    This is a not-to-miss event, the premier restaurant, food service and hospitality industry show. Come and learn about how Temperature@lert can avert disasters by overseeing, monitoring, and alerting from BOH, to FOH, to pantry, and through the rest of you culinary kitchenstand. Temperature@lert has you covered and would love to meet with you if you're in the Chicago area! If you can't make it, make sure you're following @TempAlertHarry for the latest news at the show!



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