Ready to Eat High Care Facility and FSMA Compliance
Ecofroz has been continuously working since 2010 on being qualified as a RTE High Care Production facility, thus providing more security for our customers in food safety. The work we have done in the past, do allow us to be in compliance with the new FSMA requirements by the US FDA for food factories.
Ready-to-eat foods are foods you don’t need to cook food that has already been cooked. You store these in the refrigerator or freezer, until you are ready to use them. Although ready-to-eat food is convenient, some require special handling to ensure food safety.
RTE is a requirement for some of customers. It does require that we fully have control over potential bacterial contamination from airborne flows, packing or people flows into the factory critical areas, and does require the following improvements in the plant to make sure we are full RTE compliant:
1. Create separate physical areas, from cutting, blanching, freezing and packing area.
2. Workers have to have different shoes when moving workers from one cutting area to the blanching area and packing area
3. Have a different and designated area for cleaning independently when moving workers from one cutting area to the blanching area or packing area
4. Forklifts have to be designated only to one area.
5. Have a positive air system in the packing area, so airborne bacteria cannot enter this area, including airlocks systems.
6. Have a specially designated packing room, with controlled conditions to avoid microbiological contamination of packing material
7. Have a daily count of microbiology in the equipment and environment before starting any process
8. Approve the processing lines to start before by using an ATP system
9. Measure microbiology and approve use of water in the processing area.
10. Measure and approve finish product for the following guidelines for microbiology:
• Salmonella negative
• Staphylococcus negative
• Listeria negative
• TPC 100,000 ufc/g
• Total coliforms • E coli negative
• Yeast and moulds
Current Layout of Factory
The factory has a total area of 10,884 m2, which is divided in separated areas, with independent entrances, to avoid the risk of microbiological contamination of either air born, people or packing introduced bacteria being introduced into any area.
The cutting area is located in an independent space area of 2,725 m2, with independent entrances for personnel, raw material and waste. The processing or blanching area, with 989 m2, is located in a closed environment with a positive air system, and an independence entrance from the cutting area, and leading towards the packing room. Between processing and packing room there is an airlock separation, as well as between the packing room and the final storage facility for packed product. To enter the packing room, personnel has to pass 2 specially designated filters, were disinfection, hair retrieval and correct uniform usage is closely inspected. The original packing area has 876 m2 and the new additional area for packing has 528m2. Packing material is stored in a specially designated room that has an independent entrance and a controlled environment to avoid bacterial or foreign material contamination. There is a special filtered area to deliver the packing material to the packing room.
The raw storage room, receives the raw material that comes from the fields and is initially stored in a cooled room at 7-9 C after is sampled and approved. It is clearly identified to continue the traceability process through the factory. It is later placed in transportation belts, were it is selected and cut by hand by our personnel. After cutting the broccoli florets, is stored in another cold room at 7C, to maintain freshness of the product before being placed in the processing belts. In the processing room, it is placed on the belt lines, were it is washed, blanched, precooled and frozen in our IQF tunnels and transported by belts to be packed in bulk and stored in the freezing rooms at -18 C.
Plant improvements during 2016 and before:
The following are important improvements and activities performed in Ecofroz to improve our product quality:
1. Floors in processing room were changed under the blanching lines, with improvements in drainage systems
2. New laser sorter machine was placed after blanching, to reduce and eliminate foreign material contamination
3. A new washer machine was imported from Japan, to improve washing efficiency and reduce foreign material contamination
4. Installation of ozone equipment for water disinfection, to improve quality of water to be used in the factory.
5. New sets of complete uniforms, including special shoes were given to personnel. Uniforms do not leave the factory and are washed and delivered to personnel in a specially designated place.
6. A new educational training program was implemented to further motivate personnel to identify and retrieve contamination at all steps of the production program. It was previously called “0-CLAIMS”, and the new name chosen by a majority vote is “CLEAN PRODUCT =HAPPY CUSTOMER”
7. A new computer program was created in house, to facilitate and speed flow of information to allow us to have full traceability of final product with more accuracy.
Plant Improvements planned for 2017
The following activities are either being implemented or scheduled to be performed during the current year:
1. A new packing room is under construction, to further improve out Ready To Eat Operation and to increase capacity of retail bags packing capabilities.
2. New packing machine will be installed in July 2017, with new technology to improve packing capabilities and efficiency.
3. A new laser sorter will be installed in processing line 2, after blanching and an x-ray machine may also be bought, if we conclude a contract that includes metallic foil.
4. Floors in old packing room are further to be improved, to keep improving cleaning systems and drainage systems to new QC requirements.