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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, December/January 2006

In The Wake of Katrina, A Lesson for Us All

The hurricane was just the beginning of a tragedy. Now facing us is what will happen to the food safety and sanitation aspects of our lives

by Henry C. Carsberg, P.S.

Water and sewage care is now a moot point. What needs to be done is something to prevent foodborne disease from contaminating food supplies. We have natural occurring foodborne pathogens in the environment, but now with the tremendous destruction, the bacteria can replicate at a rapid pace. Warm weather, contaminated water, and the compromised food supply have created ideal conditions for a rapid increase in bacteria infestation.

Examine the impact this disaster has had on the New Orleans Saints — bounced all over the south, playing and practicing football wherever they can. However, their hurdles are nothing compared to what could happen to the food supply in their little corner of the globe.

Keep in mind that bacteria can move in air, water and any and all modes of transportation, such as people’s feet, for example. Food safety programs must be implemented. How do we do that? Here are “Henry’s Eleven Ideas” — that will help contribute to reducing the incidence of foodborne pathogen outbreaks:

  • Residues, such as soil, mud, water, etc., can contribute to mold and foodborne pathogens;
  • Structural damage, broken windows, damaged walls, etc., can provide access for rodents, birds and reptiles;
  • Clear away and dispose of all debris;
  • Systems need to be put in place to prevent employees, etc., from tracking infected product and soil to clean areas;
  • Perform an audit and a through inspection of the facility to identify the problem areas, and decide how to best deal with these problems;
  • Teach your people what to look for, how to deal with the problem, and partner with them to resolve how to best deal with the problem. Give them the tools to accomplish this task;
  • At this point, ATP testing may not be indicated due to the heavy organic load, but rapid test of the area can provide a reading of what is there and what you are up against;
  • Perform a thorough analysis of equipment. What will be needed to bring your facility up to standard? Cleaning equipment allocation is important as it can reduce man-hours and increase efficiency;
  • Implement a prevention program that prevents foodborne pathogens from reentering the facility. Examine what is going on around and outside the facility;
  • Examine and implement ideas to protect what has cleaned and sanitized;
  • Work with and call on the various agencies such as the CDC, FDA, USDA and local health departments, etc. (I am sure they will be most helpful in providing some insights as to how to best bring your facility back to high standards.) Cooperation is the key. An outside eye may be in order to provide a non biased opinion and perform an audit that can provide invaluable information to your clean up efforts.

If you maintain a positive attitude and work to bring your facility up to speed, then you will appreciate the fact that for every adversity, there is something of equal or greater benefit. You will then rise to become “ABOVE THE BEST.”

Henry Carsberg is a sanitation consult with more than 30 years of experience. He welcomes feedback on his columns and can be reached at 360-293-8719 or abovethebest@comcast.com.

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