Lowering Salmonella load at processing requires company-wide effort initiated from the top
Lowering the load of Salmonella going into the processing plant requires a company-wide effort initiated from the top, panelists advised at a roundtable on food safety.
“It’s about the leadership saying out loud what is expected from each group in the company — the breeders, the hatchery, the growout side and the plant,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, DVM, senior vice president, technical services and innovation, Perdue Farms.
“There has to be a common goal; it has to come from the top and be clear about what is expected,” he said at the roundtable “Coming Together for Food Safety.”
Robert O’Connor, DVM, senior vice president, technical services, Foster Farms, agreed that the reduction of Salmonella needs to be a mutual goal.
Company owners need to bring live production and plant managers together and hold everyone responsible for food safety, he said. The mutual goal might be keeping the processing plant in USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Category 1.
“If you’ve experienced a Salmonella outbreak, communication will flow like it’s never flowed before between live production and the plant. People from sales and marketing are included — the entire company comes on board,” he added.
Complex managers have key role
Juan Devillena, director of quality assurance and food safety, Wayne Farms, said, “Commitment from the top down is going to change this industry. But the key player is going to be the complex manager who puts all these different groups together.”
Tyson Foods complex manager Joshua Whitley said it is important to convey the “why” and importance of what is being asked of the entire team. Everyone needs to understand their impact on food safety and what it means to customers and business if the plant ends up in FSIS Category 3.
Douglas Fulnecheck, senior public health veterinarian, Zoetis, and formerly a supervisory veterinary medical officer, FSIS, said he encourages managers from live operations to attend weekly USDA plant-management meetings at least once monthly.
“Come to that meeting prepared to talk about things that are going on and how what they’re doing in live operations will affect the processing plant. It’s also a good way to develop a relationship with the FSIS veterinarian,” he said.
At Mountaire Farms, there’s a food-safety task force that meets regularly to review all aspects of production, said Carl Heeder, DVM, senior director, live operations. “We don’t always agree, but at least we sit there and talk on a regular basis. There needs to be agreement to meet on a regular basis.”
Meanwhile, one of the most valuable tools George’s Poultry has used is having employees who work in the field come to the plant and vice versa, said Erin Johnson, director of food safety. “That way, we appreciate each other’s roles and goals.”
Stewart-Brown recommended not only delineating expectations for each area of production but using the same approach that’s applied to operational metrics.
Examples of expectations would be vaccination against Salmonella for breeders, fumigation of the hatchery, a pellet temperature of 180° F in the feed mill and dry litter in the growout area, he said.
“Say the things you expect, check on them and discuss compliance…in the same meetings you talk about operational efficiency metrics,” he said. “If they are important, they deserve the same kind of attention as feed conversion and hatchability.”
Metrics for food safety are hard to come up with, he acknowledged, but “it only takes lost business due to Category 3, a recall or human illness to raise it up to the level of operational metrics.”
Posted on August 9, 2021