FOOD SAFETY AT MAUI KUʻIA ESTATE CHOCOLATE
March 21, 2020
Given the unprecedented health crisis that the community we serve is facing, we are detailing for you, our customers, the safety procedures we employ and the extra measures we are taking to ensure that our chocolate is safe. As a food manufacturer we are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as well as the State Department of Health and we must comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act that requires Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate to identify every potential safety hazard in our chocolate manufacturing process. Starting with receipt of ingredients (cacao, cocoa butter, sugar and dried milk), every step of our process has been analyzed and documented preventive control procedures are in place for supply chain controls, process controls, allergen controls, and sanitation controls. The ingredients are tested for key bacterial pathogens before being used to make product and finished chocolate is tested again to ensure no contamination has taken place during manufacture.
Viruses are not bacteria and additional measures need to be taken to ensure that our chocolate is safe from viral contamination, particularly coronavirus. Viruses require a living host to replicate so the longer they remain outside of a host, the more likely it is they will be inactivated. There is a recent article that describes conditions and disinfectants that inactivate coronaviruses, Coronaviruses: How long can they survive on surfaces? The key points are handwashing is important to reduce the potential of transmission to surfaces that can then be contacted by others. Handwashing is a routine and frequent practice in making chocolate that is required by all regulatory agencies. When direct contact with chocolate is likely, gloves are used in addition to handwashing. Another significant finding in the article is that coronaviruses are inactivated by several disinfectants. We have implemented an additional sanitization step by using 70% alcohol on food contact surfaces and surfaces such as door handles and faucets where contact with hands is unavoidable. Lastly the article points out that coronaviruses are highly sensitive to heat and higher temperatures inactivate the virus rapidly. Chocolate processing is carried out at 50C (122F) and during processing coronavirus and other viruses are expected to be inactivated. We have extended our processing time at that temperature to a minimum of three days to ensure inactivation of coronavirus.
Lastly, to minimize the potential for coronavirus contamination I will be the only person making chocolate for the foreseeable future. Our wrapping of 5g pieces is almost entirely done by machine. Any employees that help me mold and wrap will be under my direct supervision. The number of employees allowed into the factory will be kept to a bare minimum (most times just me) and anyone that is not feeling well will not be allowed to work. All chocolate that is in inventory was made and wrapped before the coronavirus arrived in Hawaii so everyone should feel confident that it is safe to eat and that we are taking every precaution to get it to our customers. All chocolate that we are currently making will be subject to the stringent safety measures I have described.
Mahalo nui loa,
Dr. Gunars E. Valkirs
CEO & Food Safety Officer