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Alaska Food Protection Task Force Meeting Minutes

In Attendance

Chris LaCroix (Copper River Seafood), Joe Logan (Trident Seafoods), Joe Frazier,  Lorinda Lhotka (DEC), Bobbie McDonald (DEC),  Monique Moore (Icicle Seafoods), Tracy Hare (Icicle Seafoods), Steve Lacy (Fred Meyers), Dr. Bob Gerlach (DEC), Dr. Sarah Coburn (DEC), Dr. Brian Himelbloom (UAF - Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center (retired)), Jeremy Botz (Fish and Game), Jeremy Ayers (DEC), LE Hegge (North Pacific Seafoods), Kathy Balcom (Icicle Seafoods), Edward Muezenberger (Alaska General Seafoods), Yuki Goto (Leader Creek Fisheries), Michael Kohan (ASMI), Brehan Kohl (DEC), Ytamar Rodriguez (DEC), Nathan Bruns (DEC), Riki (Deep Sea Fisheries), Joe Hardin (), Ron Swartz (UAA Emergency Management), Everette Anderson, Teena, Jason Martin (Golden Alaska), Margaret de Gravelle (Icicle Seafoods), 

Opening Remarks - Kim Stryker, Program Manager

What is the State doing? We have 13 or so temporary reassigned to Unified Command.  Reviewing some 2000 plans.  Food Safety running on a skeleton crew.  Standing down on routine inspections.  Staff is available for foodborne illness/imminent danger.  The admin staff is keeping the program running.  FDA contract is in suspension.  Inspections are on hold.  That is still current status and no time frame as to when it might open again.  How can we support firms/operators without inspections?  Concept of virtual inspections.  In most jurisdictions, this is not a regulatory inspection.  It is a voluntary food safety check.  What are your thoughts on this?  Implementation?  Do you think technology could be an issue (internet connectivity, etc.)? 

  • Jeff Hickman – They have been conducting preliminary inspections with NEW facilities (preopening). No zoom, security risks.  TEAMS hard.  More correspondence looking for pictures.
  • Chris Lacroix – likes the idea but concerned about tech communication issues.
  • Ally Haggey – Concerned about folks going from plant to plant doing inspections worries them. Virtual good idea, however, tech issues will hinder.  Tech would hinder wifi and video feeds.  They like the idea of correspondence and supporting pictures.
  • Yuki Goto – Phone connection is questionable in King Salmon area but likes the idea.
  • Monique Moore - Completely agree with LE, remote sites do not have the bandwidth for video streaming from within facilities and even in offices.  Desk type audits with an agreed-upon agenda sharing data would be better
  • Chris LaCroix - (My microphone isn't working on my laptop)  We currently do desk audits with the USDC from time to time and this method works well (docs and pix)
  • Joe Hardin - AIB, the auditing body, is having us go through a two-hour application and risk assessment for BRC remotely, and extending the certification to 6 months.

Kim – for folks who have tried this, what didn’t work well?

  • Important to have an agreed-upon agenda
  • Helpful to send a list of what documents are required before the interaction.

Joe Logan posted into messenger the following from FDA - Q: Turning to the larger issue of food safety, how do you know our food is safe if FDA and the states are not doing inspections of farms and food facilities?

Our food safety net remains strong. For the time being, we are not doing in-person routine surveillance inspections of farms and food facilities in this country and others that export foods to the United States. We are doing this to limit exposure to the virus and out of concern for the safety of FDA investigators, state inspectors, and the workers in these farms and facilities as people all over the world are sheltering in place.

However, we are still doing mission-critical inspections when needed to protect public health. Such inspections could be necessitated by natural disasters, outbreaks of foodborne illness, Class 1 recalls, and, in some cases, inspections at firms with a poor track record when it comes to food safety.  

We have other tools and authorities to help ensure the safety of imported foods, including product examinations at the ports of entry and the use of PREDICT, our risk-based import screening tool to focus our examinations and sample collections.

And the FDA is conducting a limited number of remote inspections involving the electronic submission of records by importers covered by the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) requirements. We are prioritizing importers of food from foreign suppliers whose onsite food facility or farm inspections have been postponed due to COVID-19.

And last but not least, remember that FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) changed the paradigm on food safety from detection to prevention.  FDA-regulated facilities are required to have preventive controls in place each and every day to ensure that the foods they produce are safe.  The industry has the primary responsibility to ensure the foods they produce are safe and by and large, they’re doing an amazing job at providing safe and available food to consumers.  Clearly, at this critical time, food safety is as important as it has ever been, and we expect food producers to redouble their food safety efforts.

• Robert Gerlach sent out a “playbook” for meat plants. Seafood obviously different but would something like this be helpful?

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for July, but the FSS program will consider meeting sooner to keep everyone up to date on COVID-19 response.

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