Animal Food Physical Hazards
Imagine you receive a call from a customer that goes something like this… “I just opened a bag of feed and found a rusty 1” bolt. What kind of operation are you running anyway?” Consumers and purchasers of food products have an expectation that the product they receive is free from known hazards. When we open a bag of chips or bite into a steak we don’t expect to break a tooth or choke on something that doesn’t belong there.
Physical hazards also known as foreign objects are materials that are not intended to be in an ingredient or finished feed. Three common objects include: metal, stones, and glass. When objects like these end up in finished animal feed they can cause harm to livestock.
Where do they come from?
Metal objects and stones are sometimes found in corn or wheat that has been harvested and shipped directly to your facility. Sometimes they come out of the field and sometimes they come from damaged farm and transport equipment. Farmers typically do not have the equipment to trap or screen these object so they end up in the commodity that you receive.
Metal objects can break off processing equipment at your facility and eventually be found in finished product.
We’ve heard of incidents where aluminum shavings end up in grain. In one instance it happened when repairs were done to a trailer while it was loaded with grain. Another times, the probe that was used for sampling was striking the side of the trailer scraping off aluminum pieces.
Broken glass from lights located above or near exposed product can find its way into finished feed.
The containers that employees use to drink water or other liquids can be accidentally dropped or kicked into receiving or mixing equipment.
How to control Physical Hazards
- Inspections at Receiving-Your First Line of Defense
Bulk Ingredient Deliveries
Your receiving function is your first line of defense, especially for bulk products. Someone must first verify with the driver what was previously hauled in the trailer. It is not unusual for haulers to transport unsafe materials like stone, metal or even glass in addition to grain products. Have a policy the states what is acceptable, what requires a certified washout and what is always unacceptable.
Receiving personnel must be attentive to observe the ingredient as it is unloaded from the trailer. It is especially important to check the load as it is first coming out of the trailer to catch objects that may have settled during transport. Checking the load periodically will help to see if any foreign objects are coming out of the trailer. Larger objects will be “screened” by the receiving grate. This inspection should be documented in some manner. A receiving log can be used or the employee can initial the receiving documentation indicating he has inspected the incoming ingredient.
Bagged Ingredient Deliveries
Your firm should have a bagged ingredient receiving procedure to observe any bag damage or open bags. A torn or wet bag may contain an unsafe foreign material. Take the time to thoroughly investigate any observable bag damage. Train employees to report this immediately so the supplier can be contacted to resolve the issue. As with bulk receiving inspections, this inspection should also be documented in some manner. A bagged ingredient receiving log can be used or the employee can initial the receiving documentation (shipping paper for example) indicating she has inspected the incoming ingredient.
You should have a standard operating procedure covering both bulk receiving and bagged receiving. Be sure to include what employees are to inspect, how they are to report deficiencies and how they are to document the inspection.
An implemented schedule of preventive maintenance will help prevent equipment damage that can lead to foreign objects entering the process. The PM schedule should include timely equipment greasing, inspections and repairs. Be sure to document and have someone verify that PM maintenance is occurring according to the schedule. When maintenance personnel are busy repairing equipment to keep production going, the PM program can get pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do.
- Magnets and Screens
Magnets will remove ferrous metals from the grain stream. Magnets are often placed at receiving, at a hammermill, and at pelleting. Screening equipment will separate stones, wood pieces and non-ferrous from. Establish a documented schedule for inspecting and maintaining magnets and screens. Include a procedure for reporting findings so you can follow-up with the supplier of the material.
Magnet pull tests are recommended to insure the magnets are functioning properly. Consult the owner’s manual for the magnet to see what the manufacturer recommends.
Physical Hazards and Your Food Safety Plan
The FDA under its Food Safety and Modernization Act regulations requires most firms to conduct a hazard analysis. One of the hazard types that must be identified are Physical Hazards. As noted above, these hazards can show up in several processing steps from receiving to loadout and it is important to document how you are controlling and reducing the probability of a physical object ending up in your finished feed. The three steps noted above are ways your firm can achieve this goal.
Our experience with FDA inspections is that physical hazards are reviewed closely. Documentation as noted in the three Control Measures is especially important. There should be no need to establish a preventive control (pc) if the probability of physical hazards is being reduced to an acceptable level.
Physical hazards are just one of the hazard categories that your firm must identify and control. Biological (salmonella) and Chemical (mycotoxins nutrient deficiencies and toxicity and medications) are the other major animal food safety hazards that must be addressed in your firm’s food safety plan.
OSH Solutions simplifies the burden of complicated government safety regulations so business owners can focus on what makes money.
We can help your firm develop and implement a food safety program or review what you have in place. We perform audits and can do a mock FDA inspection to evaluate your inspection readiness.