Food Safety is the New Culture

By Tina Caparella

“It’s really easy for renderers to think the [pet food] customer is crazy sometimes,” Dr. Michele Sayles, Diamond Pet Foods, claimed at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association’s 2016 Poultry Protein and Fat Council (PPFC) seminar in early October in Nashville, Tennessee. “But we’re making a human-food-grade product from non-human-food-grade ingredients.

“We make infant formula that you just happen to feed to your dog,” Sayles continued, explaining that pet food manufacturers must meet the same Food and Drug Administration (FDA) microbiological standard as infant formula. “This is a huge undertaking,” she added. Because pet food is sold in grocery stores and ends up in the same shopping carts and bags as human food, FDA demands zero tolerance for Salmonella in pet food despite very low reported human illnesses and no deaths from pet food.

“Whether the Salmonella risk is real or perceived doesn’t matter, food safety is the new culture,” Sayles said. She noted that pressure isn’t just coming from regulators and the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) but also from retailers and consumers as there are now more pets than children in United States households. Sayles stated this new food safety culture for pet food is going to take commitment from everyone – suppliers, transporters, and customers – not just pet food manufacturers.

Sayles reported that the number one quality issue specific to rendered ingredients is consistency. As a dog’s nose is 50 times more sensitive than a human’s nose, suppliers of flavor and aroma ingredients (i.e., animal fat and proteins) not only must meet specific requirements but must also provide the highest quality product to ensure consistent smell, taste, and color.

“I think we can make a lot of headway on all fronts by working together,” Sayles concluded.

Many of the other presenters during the day-and-a-half PPFC seminar were rendering plant workers who shared their and their company’s experiences and actions with plant operations, safety, and product quality.

Jacob Swann and Steve Smith, both from American Proteins Inc., discussed foreign material contamination in finished product and raw material. Swann stated that pet food buyers and manufacturers along with FSMA all require higher standards to ensure pet safety so renderers need to work hard at ensuring a clean finished product. He put contamination into perspective by explaining that five specs of plastic or non-ferrous material found in a one-pound sample translates to 250,000 specs in one truckload of finished product. For ferrous metal, .22 pounds in a one pound sample can mean up to 11,000 pounds per load.

“I wouldn’t want to feed this to my animals either,” Swann exclaimed. As the first line of defense, collection truck drivers should be trained to inspect and examine raw material for physical contaminates prior to loading. Smith suggested using cameras to view a truck’s load as it enters the plant before offloading. Posters and tabletop materials placed throughout plants will help educate employees on the importance of ensuring raw material is clean from physical contamination. Video training of new employees and at monthly or quarterly safety meetings also provides continual education. Smith said renderers need to be vigilant about educating raw material supplier workers on the hazards of physical contaminants due to personnel turnover.

Jim Rofkahr, Tyson Foods, addressed hydrogen sulfide (H2S) safety, sharing how the poultry renderer ensures employees are safe from this colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas after a 2003 worker fatality. Smoke bombs are used to determine air pathways so decisions can be made on where to install fans in wastewater, raw material collection, and processing areas. Personal H2S monitors are also worn on workers’ shirt collars so they are near where employees breathe and stationary alarms are strategically located throughout the plant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers H2S training available online.

James Emerson, Pilgrim’s, spoke about the new FSMA regulation that saw its first compliance date in September.

“Most of us have already been doing for years what FSMA requires,” Emerson stated. Renderers need to properly document training of plant personnel and prove the plant is meeting operational standards by using analysis records, cooker charts, and by participating in the Animal Protein Producers Industry testing program. He warned that many auditors who come into a rendering plant have no idea what they are looking at.

Several speakers at the seminar examined rendering equipment efficiencies, from centrifuge rebuilding and applications to conventional cookers and wastewater pretreatment technology using suspended air flotation. Dave Millé, Mid-South Steam Boiler and Engineering Co. Inc., addressed the common causes of pressure vessel failures and the importance of proper inspection, noting that 40 percent of failed vessels contained cracks that were not visible.

Ken Wilson, Simmons Foods Inc., stepped up to the plate to discuss aquaculture on behalf of an absent presenter. One surprising note to all was that globally, farms now raise more seafood than beef, which means alternative feed ingredients will be needed to feed the more than 500 species of fish raised worldwide. Research shows that rendered fats help maintain nutritional value in aquaculture feed and are a good alternative to replace expensive fish oil.

The generational mix of attendees heard how to engage with millennials, a group born between the early 1980s and early 2000s that will make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. Chelsea Eller, U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and a millennial herself, noted that 75 percent of managers agree that managing multi-generational teams is a challenge.

“Because millennials grew up with technology, baby boomers can be intimidated by us,” she commented. “But we’re intimidated by baby boomers, so we all need to work together.” Eller said millennials are dedicated to their jobs if they have a good relationship with their supervisor, but are not afraid to leave a position if they do not like their boss. Often called the “entitled” generation, millennials do have trouble following protocol yet are motivated by growth opportunities and prefer regular performance feedback instead of the traditional yearly review. Eller advised bringing together the strengths of multiple generations and show mutual respect for the different work styles.

December 2016 RENDER | back