The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) represents the most significant change in FDA food regulations in generations. Dr. Charles Starkey, technical services director, American Proteins, explained that FSMA will have a tremendous impact on renderers, because FSMA sets new regulations and standards for how food is produced and transported. If you’re wondering what rendering has to do with “food,” Starkey told the audience at USPOULTRY’s processor workshop in Atlanta, Georgia, that FSMA defines food as “any product for food or drink provided to man or animal.”
Rendered product that is fed to food producing animals, like cattle, swine or poultry, is considered a potential risk for human health, because the meat, milk or eggs these animals produce will eventually be eaten by people. If the animal feed is contaminated with Salmonella, then this could ultimately be picked up by the animals and this contamination could be present on the meat, milk or eggs we buy.
But livestock and poultry feed ingredients aren’t the products that renderers produce that consumers believe presents the greatest potential risk for human health, Starkey reported. He said that in a consumer survey conducted by the pet food industry, consumers considered the highest-risk food product in the human food chain to be infant formula, because babies don’t have a fully developed immune system. Consumers in the survey considered the No. 2 risk in the human food chain to be companion animal food because children often have direct contact with pet food and they have lots of physical contact with their pets.
HACCP plans require a food producer to eliminate or reduce physical, chemical and biological hazards. Starkey said that rendering, or cooking animal byproducts, essentially eliminates the biological hazards. If the renderer cooks the raw materials properly and prevents recontamination, then the biological hazards, such as bacteria and viruses that may be present in the offal. It is up to the renderer to prevent cross contamination of product after it is rendered. One potential source of biological contamination at a slaughter plant are what Starkey called “trailer sweepings” from the live receiving area and he said that processors do need to make sure that these don’t wind up in a rendering truck with the offal.
Starkey also said that since the raw materials of rendering come from food plants, and food plants have to prevent chemical contamination within their operations, chemical hazards aren’t a big issue. He said that food processors are already using chemicals and lubricants in their facilities that are safe around food, but that renderers need to use edible lubricants now as well. He did caution processors who do wastewater treatment on site to make sure that the chemicals used in their dissolved air filtration (DAF) systems are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substances, since solids removed from DAF tanks are often rendered.
Put trash in its place
Anyone who has worked in a poultry slaughter plant has seen someone use a paper towel to dry their hands or wipe down something and then thoughtlessly toss the used paper towel in the evisceration trough or flume. That person might not realize how offal is screened out of the water from the trough and that the paper will end up in the offal trailer. Starkey said that trash is the biggest physical hazard that renderers have to confront which they don’t have control over.
Renderers can’t screen things out of chicken offal after they receive it. Starkey asked processors to make sure that trash cans are placed in the plant in places that are convenient for employees and that it isn’t easier for employees to dispose of trash in the condemn barrel. Proper training for production, sanitation and maintenance employees about the difference between trash and condemned product is important; He said that it is particularly important for sanitation crews.
Starkey suggested posting signs near offal trailers telling people not to put trash in them. He also said that American Proteins has developed signs for processors to use that have pictures of dogs on them explaining that offal goes into pet food. The payback for keeping a processors’ offal going into the pet food market is worth the effort it requires, both for the renderer and the processor.