Handling Rework in the Food Industry

What is rework?  

Rework is an unincorporated food product kept for subsequent use or reprocessing. Examples of reworking may include:

  • re-forming meat patties rejected for being broken, underweight or improperly breaded  
  • reprocessing dough left over from previous production  
  • repacking cookies that were mislabeled  
  • re-cleaning grains that did not meet specifications  
  • reprocessing cooked sausage as pizza topping or sausage crumble
  • re-baking bread crumbs that will be used to coat other food products, such as breaded foods  
  • incorporating sausage end trimmings from one batch into the production of a new batch  
  • mixing production from one day into a batch from a different day

What is the risk of mishandling rework?

Mishandling rework material may result in potential hazards such as:

  • presence of undeclared allergens due to cross-contamination —  for example when a product containing a specific allergen is mixed with a product that does not contain the ingredient and labelling is not changed to acknowledge the fact.
  • contamination with pathogenic bacteria due to improper personal hygiene or product handling practices
  • growth of pathogenic bacteria due to temperature abuse — for example, rework material that requires refrigeration is left at room temperature overnight and used as an ingredient in the next day's production. Another example of rework mishandling would be to allow frozen rework to thaw at room temperature rather than at refrigeration temperature.
  • growth of pathogenic bacteria due to time abuse — for example, rework material stored for long period of time due to improper stock rotation
  • presence of undeclared restricted ingredients in the final product — for example, addition of cured meat to a fresh meat product, which should not contain curing agents

Besides these potential hazards, the addition of rework may affect your formulation because it can modify the nutrient content of your final product. If you need to use rework, ensure that it does not affect the accuracy of the nutrition declarations.  

Handling rework

When handling rework in your facility, note the following:

  1. Identify the rework material. Apply tags with product identification information, which may include name of the product, lot code and date of production. You can also use color-coded containers to identify rework material.   
  2. Store rework in a way that prevents contamination with potential food hazards and growth of micro-organisms
    • Store rework in an appropriate environment that prevents or minimizes food spoilage. For example, meat rework must be stored in a temperature-controlled environment at four degrees Celsius or less to prevent or limit the growth of microorganisms.
    • Follow general good storage practices. For example:  
      • store rework materials off the floor and away from walls to minimize contamination
      • cover and protect rework materials
      • use clean containers
      • ensure storage room is adequate for storing food products (ex: avoid pest access, permit maintenance and cleaning)  
    • Establish the maximum storage time for your rework material. For example, for meat products, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends using rework meat only from the immediately preceding lot or shift and only within 24 hours of that shift.
    • Put controls in place to prevent storing rework material for long periods. For example, show the amount and type of rework on the production record. This serves as a reminder to use the material when work resumes. 
  3. Prevent cross-contamination with allergens. Inappropriate use of rework materials may result in the presence of undeclared ingredients in final products. This may trigger allergic reactions in some people who are sensitive to a specific ingredient or product. To prevent cross contamination with potential allergens not listed on their labels you may:
    • specify designated uses for rework materials. For example, use rework materials only with products that already have the same ingredients.
    • identify ingredients and ensure that rework containing different ingredients is not used in those products
  4. Establish the maximum amount of rework material allowable in a product to control the effect of rework on the final formulation. The amount of rework you add should not alter the nutrition content or the ingredient listing of the product. Depending on the type of product, adding too much rework material could affect the validity of the nutrition facts panel. It could also affect the quality and shelf life of the final product.  
  5. Develop a rework tracking system to be able to identify the final products containing rework materials. A rework tracking system will be necessary if a food product is recalled because it or any of its ingredients is identified as a health risk. If a food product is suspected of presenting a potential hazard to the public, you will need to identify all of its raw materials and ingredients, including rework materials.
    To keep track of your rework material:
    • develop a recording system for rework that includes the time, quantity and processing step it was collected from, the original lot or batch number/code and the code of the lot or batch it was added to
    • record the use of rework material from a specific lot code/batch or production date on your daily production record 
  6. Train your staff. Make sure you communicate to your staff all the instructions and procedures on the use of rework and the risks associated with the mishandling of rework material. Post a copy of those procedures at the plant, if necessary. 
  7. Monitor the use of rework. To ensure rework material is used and handled properly, you should:
    • confirm that rework material is properly identified
    • confirm that rework material is stored under conditions that protect the safety of your products (ex: correct temperature)
    • observe employees handling rework to ensure they follow proper procedures
    • monitor your rework tracking system by reviewing records

For more information, email the CVO/Food Safety Knowledge Centre or call 204-795-8418 in Winnipeg.