Adherence to plans keeps meat operations out of hot water
By STEVE BROWN
While meat processors must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure the safety of their product, organic meat processors have an additional layer of guidelines, an industry experts says.
The critical limit for contamination by nonorganic products is generally zero, said Jim Riddle, a University of Minnesota outreach coordinator. Riddle has spent 30 years as a farmer and inspector and is the founding chairman of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association.
Riddle advised every organic meat producer to complete an Organic System Plan from their certifying agency. Such a plan tends to parallel Good Manufacturing Practices standards.
"Follow organic laws, and follow your own plan," he said.
The FDA-required HACCP plan -- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points -- defines a systematic preventive approach to reduce or eliminate safety risk.
"The organic processor must identify points where loss of control may jeopardize organic integrity," Riddle said during a webinar.
Written protocols address such control points as handling, storage, equipment, sanitation, pest management, waste management and packaging.
For example, in organic processing, packaging products must be free of synthetic fungicides, fumigants or preservatives.
In pest control, nonchemical methods are required unless and until it becomes necessary to use approved pesticides. "Keep records to verify those actions," Riddle said.
Records of all activities must be maintained at least five years.
Having a written plan is vital both for training and for documenting consistent performance.
Joe McCommons, a senior supply chain auditor and quality control manager at a meat packing company in Minnesota, has worked 14 years in auditing and processing.
McCommons described specific areas of the meat operation to document, advising processors to "make sure you're living up to your written programs."
Besides HACCP records, all processors must maintain standard sanitary procedures. Cleaning procedures and schedules need to be spelled out, not only to establish daily chores but also to track what doesn't get done daily, such as ceilings, exterior docks and refrigerators.
Animal welfare, McCommons said, has become vitally important in any meat operation. There should be water in all holding areas, and handlers should not yell or be abusive. Processors need to ensure the animal is insensible prior to slaughter and that the first shot is effective.
For further recommendations, he directed processors to the websites of animal scientist Temple Grandin and the USDA.
Quality control manager Joe McCommons listed several areas an auditor expects to see addressed:
* Training for managers and employees
* Calibration records for thermometers and scales
* Allergen programs
* Incoming goods inspection, including nonmeat ingredients such as spices
* Temperature records for storage areas
* Traceability program, including all ingredients
* Recall programs (McCommons recommended conducting a mock recall yearly.)
* Review of inspections, including self-inspections; regulatory inspections, both second- and third-party; and corrective actions
* Control of glass and brittle plastic
* Finished product testing for quality and microbiological for pathogens
* Security protocols for employees and visitors