While first recognizing the strong food safety track record the ice cream industry has enjoyed, nearly 30 members of the International Ice Cream Association met with IDFA’s senior regulatory team last week to discuss issues surrounding the challenges of controlling Listeria monocytogenes and to determine what IDFA can do to help members and the ice cream industry overall. Working with its newly established ice cream safety task force, IDFA will develop a practical reference and guidance document, offer education and training, and continue to collaborate with federal regulators and others in the food industry on issues related to Listeria.
The four-hour session convened immediately before the start of Regulatory RoundUP, IDFA’s two-day meeting that featured sessions on recalls related to Listeria and responses from regulators and legal experts. One of the speakers was John Sheehan, director of the Division of Dairy, Egg and Meat Safety, Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. Sheehan discussed what the industry can do to prevent future recalls, how regulators are addressing the issue and what dairy companies can do to prepare for inspections.
He encouraged companies to continue to focus on basic good manufacturing practices and environmental monitoring within dairy plants to seek out and eliminate Listeria when it is found. He said FDA recognizes that companies won’t always have negative results; the agency expects facilities to find the bacteria on occasion, given the ubiquitous nature of Listeria, but then they should take appropriate corrective actions, he added.
Final Guidance This Fall
Sheehan told IDFA members that FDA’s draft guidance for Listeria control, published in 2008, will be finalized and made available to the industry following the August release of the final rule on hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls stemming from the Food Safety Modernization Act. IDFA anticipates the guidance from FDA will “establish the framework to allow the industry to be more aggressive in seeking out and destroying Listeria in the plant environment before it finds its way into products and causes illness,” said John Allan, vice president for regulatory affairs and international standards for IDFA.
Working in tandem with this timing, IDFA’s ice cream safety task force is developing a comprehensive reference and guidance document. It will include a list of responsible practices covering pre-requisite programs like the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), sanitary design of equipment and facilities, along with guidance for implementing these practices and an extensive list of available resources.
“It will be a one-stop reference document that the industry can use in improving existing food safety programs to ensure adequate control of Listeria,” Allan said. “We plan to vet it with FDA before it’s finalized and distributed by IDFA to the entire ice cream industry. FDA has welcomed our actions and willingness to work together on Listeria control.”
Allan expects the IDFA document will be available prior to FDA’s guidance being issued. IDFA is also planning a series of educational webinars, beginning this summer, that will be open to everyone in the ice cream industry. The webinars will likely focus on food safety basics, including GMPs and the sanitary design of equipment and facilities.
Outreach to Food Industry
IDFA also is reaching out to other trade associations in the foods industry, such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, to coordinate on issues related to Listeria control. “We want to promote ongoing continuous improvement and make sure everyone in the food industry has the tools they need to control this pathogen,” Allan concluded.
Members with questions about IDFA’s Listeria control efforts may contact Allan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members with questions about Regulatory RoundUP and speaker presentations may contact Marti Pupillo, director of communications, at email@example.com.