Wednesday, November 4, 2009

GMA Issues Draft Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts

Recently, the GMA issued a draft document entitled "Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts". This 146 page guide explicitly details the processing procedures that the GMA members expect of their suppliers. As with many of the documents that we have seen recently it details what they want but it does not offer much in the way of "how" to achieve these goals. Alarmingly, while the requirements may be perfectly reasonable for US sourced commodities, many overseas facilities would fall far short of even the minimum standards.
At the core of the GMA's message is the emphasis that safety controls must be in place throughout the processing chain, and that accurate records must be kept.
"Today's nut industry relies on a web of inter-company relationships. Successful implementation of preventive food safety plans and supporting prerequisite programs are required at shellers, processors, and manufacturers to ensure effective food safety management. Preventing the production and shipment of contaminated or adulterated food is heavily favored over reliance on interventions once contaminated goods have entered distribution channels and, subsequently, the food supply" (Page 5, Industry Handbook for Safe Processing of Nuts)

Adapting to Changing Regulations

The standards for facilities that produce raw nuts are specifically detailed. As we move forward it is important for the industry to develop programs to address the conditions that exist in many overseas nut processing facilities so that roasters and processors can adapt to changing regulations. Without a doubt, in the near future there will be increased scrutiny of these facilities.
Even without knowing the specifics one can only speculate that cartons of imported raw nuts and seeds that frequently contain infestation, hair, foreign material, webbing etc. do not come from facilities that would pass the GMA's test. It makes sense to be proactive and begin now to identify those processing facilities that adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices, and to encourage those companies with compromising conditions to bring their facilities into compliance with 21st century food safety concepts.

Inspection and Assessment are the First Steps Inspection and assessment are the first steps towards a comprehensive food safety program. Many potential scenarios, such as salmonella contamination, cannot be dealt with on the basis of testing and corrective treatment. These problems will not go away without effort on our part. It's time for a change.