Environmental Contamination of Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Foods and the Role of the Environment and Water

Duration 90 Mins
Level Basic & Intermediate & Advanced
Webinar ID IQW19F0683

  • Definitions (RTEs, etc.)
  • Liability
  • A study of farm level biological and chemical contaminants
  • Insect bacterial contaminants
  • Recalls
  • Research Findings
  • Risk levels for various RTEs
  • Some Available Resources

Overview of the webinar

One of the three most critical food safety issues facing the food industry today is environmental contamination of ready-to-eat foods (RTEs). Ready-to-eat foods have no kill step applied between the sale of the product and consumption by consumers. Demand for such product is drastically increasing as consumers look for increasing levels of convenience. 

Over the past several years, FDA recall investigations have repeatedly shown that most farms are impacted by a myriad of environmental bacterial contaminants, man applied chemicals and impossible to remove physical hazards. The FDA has failed to report these findings due to the inability of science and technology to quickly test for and verify such contaminants prior to shipment to market. 

This is especially true of agricultural water that includes many types of bacteria. The latest research shows that insects (fruit flies, cockroaches, etc.) can carry bacterial contaminants to ready to eat foods. Prevention is key in this regard. In other words, there is no lower tier solution available to protect the downstream supply chain or the consuming public.

Who should attend?

  • Procurement Officers
  • U.S. food processors, distributors, retailers and restaurant chains 
  • Restaurant and retail inventory control and buyers
  • Foreign food producers, importers and exporters 
  • Food safety and quality specialists

Why should you attend?

RTE supply chain members need to begin to understand the risk levels that exist at farms, through processing and into the consuming public. In many instances, farm level bacterial contamination is simply not controllable meaning that producer and processor controls become ever more critical.

Water is a critical issue. In this webinar, we will look at water contamination data collected on-site at several farms and discuss ag water problems found by the FDA during recall investigations. While fresh produce represents only one type of RTE, environmental contaminants abound and, indeed, new ones are being discovered daily. Farms are left without a low cost, portable, quick turn-around ability to test the water, product and soil. With a 2-3-day lag between harvest and test results, the supply chain is laid open to multiple liability levels.

This webinar will review the issues surrounding the potential impact of bacteria in RTE foods from the farm through packing, processing and into the consuming public. Seafood (raw, smoked, preserved), produce (raw, dried vegetables and fruit), dairy products (soft cheese, un-ripened and ripened cheese, hard cheese, processed cheese, pasteurized and unpasteurized milk, ice cream frozen dairy products, cultured milk (yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk), high-fat dairy products (butter, cream), meat (frankfurters, sausages, deli meats, pate and meat spreads), and salads all have risk levels with some RTEs ranking at “Very High Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, Moderate Low Risk and Low-Risk levels”.

The importance of time and temperature controls and the use of microorganism reduction strategies, cross-contamination, cross-contact (allergens) and controls all impact these risk levels and should be understood with regards to varying consumer ages, health, the length of time foods remain refrigerated prior to consumption and other variables. Learning objectives are:

  • Understand the risks associated with Ready to Eat (RTE) foods
  • Review farm level contamination bacterial and chemical levels (water and produce)
  • Review insect carried bacterial contamination, risks and solutions
  • Review risk levels for various bacteria and RTEs
  • Review research related to environmental pathogens
  • Understand the need for future preventive solutions

Faculty - Dr. John Ryan

Dr. John M. Ryan is currently working with various food and RFID/Traceability suppliers and a variety of sensor providers to implement an international RFID produce supply chain track and trace and food safety system between the State of Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific Region. He is a the quality assurance administrator over two branches within the department: Commodities and Measurement Standards which include labs used to test various processed foods and primary involvement with food safety. He previously implemented the nations' first RFID food traceability (farm-distribution-retail) project.

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