The FDA has reported a major recall of specific lot dates of hard cooked eggs in brine, sold to distributors and manufacturers, after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium causes a type of food borne disease which can be serious for some at-risk consumers, including the very young, very elderly and pregnant women – in which the unborn child is put at risk.
The source of the bacterium which causes the cross contamination looks to be a repair project that took place in the packaging room. This would have been particularly dangerous as the packaging room is more often than not at the end of the process, occurring after any heat or other antimicrobial processing would have taken place. On the basis of HACCP, contamination at this point would not be later controlled and a hazard may cause unsafe food – which in this instance is exactly the case.
It highlights the importance of not making any assumptions about the safety and hygiene of any maintenance or repair activity. These activities require close control and verification of the hygienic status of the repair (a recommissioning if you will) after completion of the maintenance activity. Indeed considering just one global food safety standard, the BRC Global Food Safety Standard, specific clauses are in place to highlight this very risk:
Taking an excerpt from clause 4.7.4 The Standard requires that “The Company shall ensure that the safety or legality of product is not jeopardised during maintenance or subsequent cleaning operations…”
A deep clean, a thorough hygiene survey of the repaired area / equipment, and, given the risk of the environment, perhaps some Listeria swabbing before commissioning the area / equipment back into use, might just have saved the day.