Debadeep Bhattacharyya, Thermo Fisher Scientific
In the Food Lab

Pushing The Limits Of Targeted Pesticide Residue Quantitation: Part 1

By Debadeep Bhattacharyya, Ph.D.
No Comments
Debadeep Bhattacharyya, Thermo Fisher Scientific

Robust, reproducible quantitation of pesticide residues in food is the most important step in ensuring food safety, and hence, forms one of the most important responsibilities of every food safety laboratories. The analytical process involves characterization and identification followed by quantitation of pesticides across different food matrices. Considering the growing list of pesticides and their adverse effects even for very low concentrations, quantitation with confidence for every sample can pose some significant challenges to the analytical scientist.

Typical practices of using pesticides to control pests and improve yields can often pose a serious risk to human health if and when used inappropriately. Improper use of pesticides in breach of approved procedures, or those that are applied to crops for which their use has not been authorized, unacceptable amounts of these potentially dangerous compounds can find their way onto the plates of consumers.

In order to ensure food is safe for consumption, laboratories require robust, reliable and cost-effective workflows, incorporating highly effective sample preparation steps, separation methods and detection techniques. Owing to its selectivity, specificity, sensitivity, robustness and universal approach, liquid chromatography coupled to triple quadrupole mass spectrometers (LC-MS/MS) are widely used for quantitation of pesticides in food.

Food standards are growing increasingly stringent, so leading laboratories must ensure they consistently meet the requirements of regulators. Thankfully, the latest comprehensive pesticide workflow solutions are helping laboratories deliver the very highest quality of pesticide quantitation, on time and on budget.

Optimizing Sample Preparation

Regardless of the food product that is being tested, pesticide residue workflows typically start with sample preparation, following homogenization and residue extraction steps. This stage is one of the most important parts of the workflow, however, very often they are not highlighted.

The heterogeneity of the sample matrix, as well as the wide variety of pesticide compounds that must be extracted, can significantly add to the complexity of this task. For example, pesticide residues can be lost during sample grinding, compromising the accuracy of quantitative analysis. Loss of critical pesticides can also occur through hydrolysis by water or enzymatic degradation as enzymes are released from cells, or by the formation of insoluble complexes due to interaction of the analyte with matrix components. Each of these factors can impact the quantitation of pesticide residues in food.

Homogenization is followed by solvent extraction and cleanup. Extraction could traditionally be a time-consuming process, often requiring relatively large amounts of sample, and involving use of multiple solvents and work-up steps. In addition, results from this step can vary based on matrix type and pesticides that are being monitored. Time-consuming sample cleanup steps, based on separation techniques such as gel permeation chromatography, could also be necessary, thereby adding another layer of complexity.

The widespread adoption of sample preparation strategies based on QuEChERS (Quick, Easy, Cheap, Effective, Rugged and Safe) methods has significantly simplified the process of residue extraction for a wide range of food types, especially for high-moisture content samples. These generic extraction approaches, coupled with “quick and easy” cleanup techniques such as dispersive solid phase extraction, are able to comprehensively extract residues with a range of different chemical properties, resulting in more consistent and reliable quantitation.

The universal and easy-to-implement nature of QuEChERS methods has also allowed laboratories to reduce the complexity of their workflows. Their simplicity is such that many suppliers are now offering all-in-one kits containing all of the necessary pre-weighted reagents and supplies, which laboratories can use straight from the box. And as they require very little sample material, solvent or equipment, and eliminate the need for time-intensive homogenization steps, they are also helping to reduce laboratory waste and cut operational costs.

The Need for LC-MS/MS Technology

Once analytes are extracted from the matrix, food safety laboratories require reliable, sensitive and precise separation, detection and quantitation technologies to determine their concentration.

As indicated above, LC-MS/MS technology with triple quadrupole mass spectrometers are often the go-to choice for quantitation applications. The high selectivity and sensitivity of these instruments allow analysts to confidently identify pesticides against target lists and accurately quantify even trace levels. Figure 1 shows the distinct separation obtained for a leek sample spiked with more than 250 pesticides at a concentration of 100 µg/kg. The mass range, robustness, specificity, selectivity of the triple quadrupole instrument ensures the ability to handle a wide variety of sample types and deliver reliable results in a cost-effective manner.

Pesticide Residue Quantitation
Figure 1. LC-MS/MS chromatogram of leek extract spiked with more than 250 pesticides at 100 μg/kg. Results were obtained using a UHPLC system coupled with a triple quadrupole MS.

Conclusion

To ensure the food on our plates does not contain potentially harmful levels of pesticides, laboratories require robust workflows for their analysis and targeted quantitation. Improvements in the sample preparation methods that are used to extract pesticide residues from food samples, as well as in the sensitivity, accuracy, robustness and reliability of the triple quadrupole instruments used for analyte detection, are helping food safety laboratories confidently quantify these compounds even in trace amounts.

Acknowledgements

This article is based on research by Katerina Bousova, Michal Godula, Claudia Martins, Charles Yang, Ed Georg, Neloni Wijeratne & Richard J. Fussell, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Dreieich, Germany,  Thermo Fisher Scientific, California, USA, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Hemel Hempstead, UK.

Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality
FST Soapbox

Color Coding Helps Brewers Button Up QA Procedures

By Adam Serfas
No Comments
Adam Serfas, R.S. Quality

The passage of FSMA sparked industry-wide tightening of food safety standards. Perhaps one industry that has been affected more than others is brewing. Prior to the passage of this sweeping legislation, brewers weren’t held to the same standards as other food manufacturers and food processors. The act’s new categorization for brewers as “food” means that the FDA now has some jurisdiction over the industry in conjunction with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

This increased scrutiny, particularly in the event of a recall, has caused many brewers to look to color-coding as a measure to tighten up their quality assurance protocols. Fortunately for brewers, there are many benefits to incorporating color-coding, making the process a worthwhile one.

Happy Inspectors

Perhaps the most immediate effect of incorporating color-coding in a facility is delighting any inspectors that may drop in. A color-coding plan is a documented method for evaluating potential hazards and implementing precautionary measures to preventing contamination—all things inspectors want to see. Failure to live up to these standards can result in follow up inspections and, in some cases, fines.

Proper Tool Usage

A color-coding plan indicates where and when a tool is to be used. While mistakes can still be made, a clear plan that is reflected in all tools and paired with adequate signage and training makes it much more likely that a tool will be used properly. Much of the equipment in a brewery is very expensive and can be easily damaged by using the wrong tool. For example, if an abrasive brush were to be used on a stainless steel tank, there can be irreparable damage.

Higher-Quality Tools

Tools that are color-coded are generally made at a food-grade, FDA-approved quality. This means they are much less likely to leave behind bristles, a potential contaminant you wouldn’t want finding its way into the product. Additionally, many breweries make use of caustics and acids followed by sanitizers in the cleaning process. A low-quality tool will degrade at a much higher rate as a result of coming into contact with these chemicals than a higher quality tool will. Simply put, higher quality tools last longer, saving you money in the long run.

Less Tool Wandering

A color-coding plan should indicate where a tool is used and where it is stored when it is not being used. When tools have this designated storage area they are much less likely to be carelessly misplaced. And in the event of a lost tool, it becomes much easier to recognize these tool gaps and replace as necessary sooner rather than later to ensure that the proper tool is always used for the task at hand.

Higher Efficiency

When protocols are in place for tool usage, time isn’t wasted finding the correct tool for the job. This may seem insignificant, but over time those lost minutes can add up.

Removal of Language Barriers

For facilities that employ foreign speakers, color-coding is extremely helpful in breaking down language barriers. A brewery production area can be a busy, fast-paced environment, so it is helpful to have a plan in place that is easily recognizable and understood by all employees.

It is however important to consider the fact that you may need to keep in mind the visibility of these colors for colorblind employees. It’s best to try to use high contrast colors in your plan.

Greater Traceability

Finally, in the unfortunate event of a recall, a color-coding plan helps add traceability potentially decreasing the amount of product that needs to be pulled from shelves. Certainly color-coding helps to prevent contamination issues that can cause a recall.

A well thought out color-coding plan that is carefully implemented can have numerous benefits in breweries both small and large. For questions related to drafting a color-coding plan from scratch or updating an existing plan, contacting a color-coding specialist is recommended.

Megan Nichols
FST Soapbox

Blockchain Improves Visibility In the Food Supply Chain

By Megan Ray Nichols
No Comments
Megan Nichols

Cryptocurrency is a favorite topic in the business world currently, but it’s not the coins or currency that are the star of the show. Bitcoin in and of itself is exciting and promising from several perspectives. However, the foundation of what these technologies run on is much more important. You likely already know what we’re going to talk about next: Blockchain.

To understand why blockchain is considered so crucial, you first need to delve into the core components of the technology. It’s basically a digital ledger, except it has some incredibly useful properties that make it uniquely lucrative. For starters, it’s public and transparent, so anyone with access to the network can see what’s happening in the moment, or what has been happening while they were away. However, the parties involved in a transaction or entry remain private, as do the materials or items exchanging hands.

Finally, because of the nature of blockchain, it’s secured and valid. The ledger itself is thoroughly protected, and no one can alter data save the parties involved. Even then, the relevant parties only weigh in with pertinent information such as time and date of the transaction and the amount transferred.

Most of what we’re talking about here is in reference to currencies and more traditional transactions. But it’s important to remember that we’re merely scratching the surface. As we speak, various organizations are working to adapt this technology for alternate industries and applications.

Still, what does any of this have to do with your average food supply chain?

Blockchain May Evolve the Food Supply Chain As We Know It

Believe it or not, blockchain can help improve the transparency and management of the food supply chain. It’s definitely needed. The world’s population continues to grow, and it’s expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. In food requirements, that means we’ll need to be increasing food production by as much as 70% to keep up. This puts a demand on the food supply chain to evolve and become more efficient, more accurate and more reliable.

The following are several ways blockchain can help achieve better transparency in and management of the food supply chain.

Preventing Foodborne Outbreaks, Enabling Fresher Goods

IBM has teamed up with several major suppliers including Wal-Mart, Dole and Nestle to come up with a blockchain-powered system that can be used to track a product’s journey from farm to store shelves. The goal is to create a more transparent deployment and transportation process so that interested parties can see exactly when and where certain foods might become contaminated.

Tracking this information will achieve a couple of things. For starters, public health officials, suppliers and management teams can help limit and prevent contagions from spreading. After the detection of Salmonella, for instance, they could mark all related goods as a risk and stop both stores from selling them and consumers from buying faster than ever before.

Second, it will help identify problematic systems and processes, hopefully cutting down on the risk of contamination in the future. If they know certain foods are going bad in transport, they can discern that it’s something to do with how they’re handled or stored along that segment of the journey. This would further enable them to identify and fix or optimize the issue. In other words, suppliers and retailers will use blockchain to keep food fresh. This is especially important since FSMA calls for reliable hygiene and storage methods during transportation.

More Accurate Inventory Tracking for Distributors

Unexpected shortages pose significant challenges to the food supply chain. A variety of external factors can contribute to a supply block, including inclement weather, poor soil, insect infestations, equipment failures and much more. When this happens, distributors are left to pick up the slack, but sadly, they often can’t do much to fix the problem.

Blockchain technologies, however, make the supply chain more transparent, which helps distributors get the information they need to address shortages. Through the use of blockchain, they’ll know exactly how much supply is available and what they need to do to ramp up their offerings.

For example, in the event of a shortage, they might connect with local farmers to make up the difference. Gathering the information needed to find the right partner, however, can take a long time when using traditional methods. Through blockchain, though, distributors could easily see product types, farming practices, harvest dates and amounts, treatment info, fair-trade certifications and other information. This would allow them ample time to find a suitable replacement or additional partner.

Transparent Safety Protocols

The food supply chain is lengthy, includes a lot of different parties and involves a lot of metrics and details that need to be recorded and monitored. The problem with having so many factors is that it can muddy the waters. It’s hard to keep track of what every party is doing, where problems exist and what improvements can be made.

Many modern food supply providers are as transparent as they can be with partners and colleagues, but it’s not an element you would describe as streamlined or accessible to all. Blockchain can completely alter and disrupt this for the better.

Since food safety is an enormous concern for suppliers, distributors and retailers, blockchain can offer more than just peace of mind. It can help organizations perfect the entire process, improving safety for consumers and even enhancing the freshness or quality of the products provided. Improper storage or transport, for instance, can have a detrimental effect on quality, before the goods even reach store shelves. Blockchain will enable better tracking and monitoring, and make the resulting details much more accessible and transparent.

It’s Time for the Food Supply Chain to Evolve

The coming change is warranted and welcomed by many. A more transparent process means a much more accessible system. Suppliers can better communicate with farmers and food sources. Distributors and retailers can keep a close eye on the goods they’re acquiring and offering to consumers. Furthermore, safety, quality and quantity can be more accurately monitored and measured by everyone along the way. It’s time for the food supply chain to evolve in this way — it’s been a long time coming.

Amy Kircher, Food Protection and Defense Institute
FST Soapbox

2018 Food Defense Outlook

By Amy Kircher, DrPH
No Comments
Amy Kircher, Food Protection and Defense Institute

As we look to 2018, the need for food defense activity remains. Increased adulteration incidents in 2017, consumer purchasing trends and FSMA rules implementation drive this need and the work necessary to complete it in 2018.

Intentional Adulteration of Food. It was evident that intentional adulteration of food did not diminish over the past year and likely increased. Adulteration cases of spices with undeclared ingredients to extend the product or boost color were documented. Terrorists plans and food adulteration tests were uncovered and publicized. In Germany, a man threatened to put antifreeze in the nation’s baby formula supply chain. And disgruntled employees continued to adulterate food to get revenge on their employer or co-workers. Given the complexity of our food system and the limited transparency of supply chains from farm to fork, those willing and able to adulterate will continue to do so in 2018.

Consumer Demands. Look in your local grocery aisles and you will find an ever-increasing section of “freedom foods”. These are foods that claim to be free of something whether it be gluten, lactose, pesticides or GMOs. With increasing frequency consumers are also asking questions about the sustainability and agriculture practices of the food they buy. How have the oceans been fished? Are my eggs from cage-free chickens? Does the food I buy protect the environment. Based on current trends, consumers will continue to spend their food dollars on organic, free-of, and sustainability produced food. This means food defense needs to have a keen eye on where fraudsters could adulterate products representing these food trends.

Company Food Defense. Two things have increased in the requests we are getting from companies: New incidents and the nearing deadline for compliance of the FSMA Intentional Adulteration (IA) rule. First, adulteration incidents that affect your product or the ingredients you use changes the lens you see food defense through. Even an adulteration in an ingredient or product similar to yours makes you look twice at how protected you are. With the continued incidents, companies are taking a hard look at how they are affected. Second, food companies have completed their work to prepare for the early FSMA rules such as Preventive Controls and Foreign Supplier Verification moving their attention to the next rules. The IA rule compliance dates begin in July 2019, and we anticipate increased activities, questions and food defense efforts in 2018.

As you can see, there is a nexus of need to accomplish defense work in our food system. Perhaps 2018 will be “the” year of food defense where individually and collectively we close vulnerability gaps.

Dana Johnson Downing, TraceGains
FST Soapbox

Six Signs Your Quality Department Is Still in the Dark Ages

By Dana Johnson Downing
No Comments
Dana Johnson Downing, TraceGains

Increasingly, we turn to technology to simplify tasks in our personal and business lives. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow us to connect, shop, advertise and publish with just a few clicks. LinkedIn is where people turn to prospect for new business, publish articles, discuss issues within industry groups, and look for a job. Need a ride? Apps like Uber and Lyft can usually get you where you’re going cheaper and more easily than a taxi. Devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo can listen to your voice commands to play music, manage your shopping list, adjust your lights, or tell a joke. And experiments are underway for driverless cars, which could make us the last car-owning generation.

Food safety documentation

With technology automating and solving so many tasks, how is it possible that food production is still dependent on paper-driven and manual processes?

The current way of doing things in the food and beverage industry is outdated, labor intensive, and—most importantly—error-prone. Under FSMA, companies need to be able to justify their decisions and processes, and of course, document them. It’s not only critical for brand protection—it’s a regulatory requirement. Ignorance is not bliss. Now, senior management is obligated to demonstrate their commitment to food safety and they risk criminal prosecution if their operations don’t measure up. There’s too much at risk to keep doing things the same old way. The following are some signs that your quality department is still in the Dark Ages.

1. You’re using clipboards.

In defense of clipboards, they were a wonderful invention. They are quite well suited for gathering signatures on petitions to save the whales or signing up for a PTA bake sale. But if you’re still using clipboards to log temperatures or document sanitation procedures, then your food safety records are not as current and organized as they could be. Inputting data later is not an effective use of time. Processes like these not only take away from the core competencies of your quality team, but they also make staff spend more time analyzing everything manually, which could lead to costly mistakes or inaccuracies. Tablets and PCs have replaced paper-based logs and other quality recordkeeping. Why make your staff do a task twice? By digitizing these records, you can ensure that your records are up-to-date in real time and reduce the likelihood of errors made during transcription. Trust me, your staff will thank you for rescuing them from extra data entry. Plus, the modern workforce expects digital solutions.

Filing cabinet, food safety documentation
Still using a filing cabinet to store documentation? All images courtesy of TraceGains

2. You’re still using a physical filing cabinet to store food safety documentation.

If you’re putting your food safety plan, supplier documents and certificates of authenticity (COAs) in a filing cabinet, you have a transparency problem. Your department isn’t the only one that needs access to those critical documents. And if everyone has their own paper copy, then you are going to have problems with version control. Solve your transparency and version control problems by keeping critical documents in the cloud where the data can be extracted, analyzed and shared internally and externally across your supply chain.

Food safety documentation
Three-ring binders are no longer an appropriate place to store important information.

3. Three-ring binders are for middle school, not food safety.

If your idea of ensuring compliance involves keeping COAs in a three-ring binder, you probably still have a flip phone, too. Seriously, 1980 called and they want their Trapper Keeper back. Whether your documents are in filing cabinets or binders, you still don’t have the transparency you need to efficiently share that information with your peers and other departments. Plus, your audits are sure to drag on longer than necessary if you are doing audits with stacks of three-ring binder instead of using an online platform where you can show the auditor any documentation they need with just a few clicks of a mouse.

4. Your suppliers send critical food safety documents to you via e-mail.

Email is a great way to communicate. It’s just not the best way to gather and manage supplier documents. Admit it; we all get behind on email, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. What happens if an out-of-spec allergen declaration gets buried under the 586 emails you receive each day? I can tell you, it’s certainly not good. The alternative is allowing your suppliers to upload those documents into a platform, so they are immediately available to you and anyone else in the company that you’ve given access to the system. Leveraging a platform, you also have access to a dashboard that can quickly show you which suppliers are in compliance and which ones have issues that need to be addressed. And if you have incoming certificates of authenticity (COAs), you can sit back and rely on software to read those documents for you and spot anything that doesn’t match your specifications or purchase order details. Isn’t it time that you not only collected supplier documents, but really use that data within the documents to better manage your incoming material to ensure food safety and quality?

5. You rely on file sharing to store your food safety and quality documentation.

SharePoint and other file sharing systems may look more modern than the paper alternative, but they weren’t designed specifically for vendor management or supply chain transparency. They can file and retrieve, but it’s not automated document management. Ask yourself how long do you or fellow employees spend searching for requested documents? Perhaps you need certain documentation for your GFSI/FDA audit, but different pieces of information are stored in various locations, either in a shared drive like SharePoint or a custom vendor portal. Every minute counts when it comes to document retrieval. These systems are often a little more than an electronic filing cabinet. They can store the information electronically, but unless it’s gathering, analyzing, validating and sharing that data across all departments, you still don’t have an automated system.

Spreadsheets, food safety documentation
If you’re still using spreadsheets, consider moving data to the cloud.

6. Spreadsheets are the main source of tracking your data.

While quality managers at competing companies are investing in the latest technology, other food companies are still inputting supplier lists and data in spreadsheets. Often, managers are reluctant to move their data to the cloud, opting instead to stick with what they know by using a spreadsheet that lacks a comprehensive system to track supplier performance in real time. This is a major disadvantage when different departments need one source of the truth about supplier performance and trend data about incoming material. Not only are spreadsheets hard to share and keep up-to-date, but the majority of them also contain errors.

  • A report by Ray Panko, a professor of IT management at the University of Hawaii, found that 88% of spreadsheets contained errors.
  • Coopers & Lybrand found that 91% of spreadsheets with 150 rows or more produced results that were off by more than 5%.
  • In a sample of 22 spreadsheets, KPMG found that 91% contained serious errors.

If your executives think automated supplier, compliance and quality systems are a “nice-to-have,” chances are you are still operating in the Dark Ages. This final advice is true no matter what software your business is thinking of implementing. Whatever the aims of the system, you must choose a long-term partner. Make sure your vendor can solve these six problems and meet the needs of your business now and in the future.

Gregory Siragusa, Eurofins
Food Genomics

What’s in a Name? Probiotic Analysis and Genomics

By Gregory Siragusa, Douglas Marshall, Ph.D.
No Comments
Gregory Siragusa, Eurofins

In short, in the world of regulatory and probiotic microbiology the “name” is critical. Whether you are a probiotics manufacturer, blender or user, we are all likely aware that usage and sales of probiotic strains of bacteria and yeasts is burgeoning. Estimates of sales growth are impressive, with $24 billion and $5 billion in human and animal markets respectively projected by the year 2024.1,2Although the organisms approved as human and animal probiotic are a huge list, it is quite large and varied. Prove it to yourself by visiting your local grocery store or pharmacy and take a trip down the aisle where probiotic supplements are displayed. Read content labels and see if you recognize the microbe names. There are many probiotic organisms’ names that you are likely to be familiar with, most of which are lactic acid bacteria (LAB). However, we are quickly entering an age of more novel or even new probiotic organisms that may be unfamiliar to you. Some of which are not always as easy to culture as the LAB.3 On the same labels you may see claims of viability and cell population declarations (usually in CFU’s or colony forming units). Also, many probiotics are retailed in dry form, while others are marketed as liquids. As food safety scientists and practitioners, questions are probably popping into your head as to how probiotic species and populations are verified and how these various preparations survive expected shelf life.

Most will agree that before anyone starts consuming pills or eating foods with billions of viable bacteria, it is obviously a prudent idea that the manufacturer has the means to assure safety and quality. The details and scope of probiotic safety and microbial analysis are much too complex and broad to deal with in a few pages. For more details we direct the reader to two key publications.4,5

Identity, viability and populations are attributes largely measurable by methods that rely on culture, phenotypic analysis, genomics and combinations thereof. Here we will share a primer on genomic methods for probiotic analysis starting with a very basic aspect critical to all of microbiology—taxonomy and asking the “right” questions.

Why Not Just Perform a Plate Count? Revisiting Taxonomy

The process of identifying or classifying organisms, also known as the science of taxonomy or systematics, has sometimes been given less-than-stellar treatment among the community of microbiologists. We are frustrated when taxonomists change genus or species names just as people learned the old existing names. But every dog will have its day, and for microbial systematists, that day has arrived since application of genomic tools to the taxonomist toolbox has coincided with growth of the probiotics industry. Practically speaking, for the probiotic microbiologist, there is a lot more to a name than just nomenclature. Microbial taxonomy, and specifically bacterial taxonomy, becomes vitally important as more and more products are produced and as regulations increase in scope. Bacterial nomenclature is an ever-changing field, but at least naming has become more centralized with its own website.6

For the probiotic manufacturer, some important questions require answers: “Is it ‘my’ strain?”, “What’s in the mixture?”, “Is the label accurate?”, and “Are they alive?”. So why are we addressing this topic as a subject for Food Genomics? Confronted with the shear variety of bacterial types, it is easy to see why and how genomic tools offer a solution to this complexity. We now have tools that augment, complement, or even in some cases, replace cultural microbiology as a means to classify, identify and analyze probiotics (see Table I).7

 General Method Application Notes
 Targeted microbiome Genus/Species level resolution
Bacterial or fungal profiles (16S/ITS gene)
Suitable for multi-strain probiotic products
Unknown or QA analysis
 Shotgun metagenome Species/Possible Strain level resolution
Bacterial and fungal profiles in same assay
Well suited for multi-strain probiotic products
 Qualitative microarray Species/Possible Strain level resolution
Non-quantitative, descriptive only
Well suited for multi-strain probiotic products
 PCR Species/Strain, probe designed specificity
Qualitative
 qPCR Species/strain probe designed specificity
Quantitative against CFU standard curve
Can be designed to detect viability
 Flow Cytometry
(Gene Probe-Based)
Probe designed specificity
Quantitative against CFU standard curve
Viable, injured, dead cell detection possible
High throughput
Table I. Genomic Tools for Probiotic Analysis

“Why not just perform a plate count?”. Obviously plate counts have a pivotal role in the analytical microbiology of probiotics and will likely remain a gold standard for enumeration of viable counts. In fact, the unit of viable cell counts, CFU is the recommendation for use to verify probiotic populations.8 Unfortunately, most plate count methods do not name or identify the microbes we count as colonies. Occasionally, with precise selective and differential media the identity of the colonies growing on the plate can be reliably called, but misidentification is common. Other tools, such as PCR, are the tool of choice for amplifying specific genes from an organism’s DNA. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) and flow cytometry both rely on a probe specific for a species or even a strain in order to estimate cell numbers, including viable cell counts.7, 9,10,11, 12

So how will modern genomics help you with the analysis of your probiotics? The following are some questions, examples and comments that illustrate genomic applications for probiotic analysis that you should be familiar with. These methods, whether sequencing-based, PCR-based or flow cytometry-based (using gene probes not antibodies), all require some form of sequence determination, detection/hybridization and analysis.

Continue to page 2 below.

Randy Fields, Repositrak
FST Soapbox

Technology’s Role In The Future Of Food Safety

By Randy Fields
1 Comment
Randy Fields, Repositrak

As we have all read in the media, when a food safety emergency occurs, a company’s reputation stands to take a significant hit that may be unrecoverable. This phenomenon isn’t going away soon, nor are compliance requirements that pose a threat to the personal freedom of executives. If these aren’t enough reasons to get busy automating your food safety programs, read on.

Randy Fields will be speaking as part of a panel of experts during the Food Safety: Past, Present & Future Plenary Session during the Food Safety Consortium, November 29th at 4:00pm.

The trends toward social and health-related product claims, like organic, the ‘free-froms’ and locally-grown, have had the impact of adding dozens if not hundreds of new suppliers to a retailer’s procurement list. And, it’s important to note, that these generally smaller suppliers are just now approaching their compliance deadlines for FSMA, and if they are very small, still have another year. New trends appear every year, and they will compound the challenge for retailers and wholesalers of knowing exactly who all of their suppliers are, which in turn will worsen compliance issues.

Our studies show that at least 12% of documents that certify organic, ‘free-froms’ and other product label claims have some level of discrepancy or inaccuracy making them invalid, and rendering the systems that rely on vendor self-disclosure near useless. With sales expected to skyrocket within these categories during the next few years, companies need to leverage technology to protect the supply chain, and consider having the system hold purchase orders generated for vendors who are not compliant with requirements.

An alternative is to have the system add a compliance fee to the purchase order that escalates over time or swiftly replace suppliers if they are not willing or not able to comply. That also speeds compliance as news travels quickly if there is a hard-hitting consequence for non-compliance. Either way, it’s important to be able to substantiate any claims to the consumer, since if those assertions are deemed unreliable, retailers and their suppliers risk a breach in consumer confidence and will suffer economically when shoppers turn away from them at the shelf.

And while retailers and wholesalers have begun to turn the Titanic on regulatory and business compliance, they need to continue to diligently find the risks in their supply chain, working even more aggressively to automate their current food safety and quality programs using new technology and procedures. Otherwise, their reputation and their existence are in jeopardy.

Cloud-based compliance management solutions that help retailers, wholesalers and suppliers meet the new food safety requirements can be configured to manage documentation requirements by supplier type vs. requiring the same documents from all suppliers. These systems also go beyond just storing digital copies of documents, and actually manage any form of compliance by reading inside the document to confirm it meets requirements. The benefits of these compliance management tools extend to streamlining new vendor approvals, which can save time and enable the redeployment of resources to more productive business-building activities.

Make no mistake: business and regulatory compliance will continue to be a focal point in the future. This includes addressing potential safety, certification and quality challenges throughout the extended supply chain as nearly one-third of all recalls are due to ingredient suppliers. We believe that in less than three years, retailers will require supply chain visibility from the shelf all the way back to “dirt”. It’s been proven too risky not to have that kind of visibility for ultimately everyone’s customer – the consumer. And now technology companies are on the hook to deliver it.

Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC
FST Soapbox

FSMA Checklist: Intentional Adulteration Rule

By Bill Bremer
No Comments
Bill Bremer is Principal, Food Safety Compliance at Kestrel Management LLC

The FSMA Intentional Adulteration rule is focused on preventing intentional adulteration from acts intended to cause wide-scale food safety impacts to public health, including acts of terrorism, economic adulteration and disgruntled employees. Such acts, while unlikely, could cause illness, death and economic disruption of the food supply absent mitigation strategies. This rule requires mitigation strategies to reduce risk versus specific food hazards.

How much do you know about the Intentional Adulteration Rule? Test your smarts by taking the FSMA IQ Test here The Intentional Adulteration rule is established to address large companies with products that reach many people, while exempting smaller companies. This rule requires covered facilities to conduct a “vulnerability assessment” to identify vulnerabilities and actions to take for each type of food manufactured, processed, packed or held at the food facility. For each point, step, or procedure in the facility’s process, these vulnerabilities must be identified and evaluated. Covered facilities must also prepare and implement a Food Defense Plan. This written plan must identify the vulnerabilities and actionable process steps; mitigation strategies; and procedures for food defense monitoring, corrective actions and verification. A reanalysis is required every three years or when certain criteria are met, including mitigation strategies that are determined to be improperly implemented.

Self-Diagnostic Assessment Tool

The following self-diagnostic assessment tool can help organizations better determine their current state of planning when it comes to implementing and managing FSMA Intentional Adulteration requirements. To complete your own assessment, review and compare your programs to the questions in Table I.

FSMA, Intentional Adulteration
Table I. Kestrel Management’s self-diagnostic tool can help a company assess its Intentional Adulteration program for FSMA compliance.

Get Compliance-Ready

Companies must have the appropriate systems in place to comply with FSMA Intentional Adulteration requirements or face possible willful non-conformance, which can include fines and criminal penalties under FDA enforcement. The questions in Table I will help companies identify areas to consider regarding their program. Kestrel can also help answer questions, provide input on solutions, discuss how to better manage all your food safety requirements, and change “No” responses into “Yes” responses that promote best practices for FSMA and food safety compliance.

Deirdre Schlunegger, Stop Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Sharing Food Safety Stories Around The World

By Deirdre Schlunegger
No Comments
Deirdre Schlunegger, Stop Foodborne Illness

Last month, I spoke in Santiago, Chile at the Inofood Conference. I spoke about the impact of foodborne illness in the lives of individuals and families.

I showed photos of little Reese who died two years ago and talked about how Stop Foodborne Illness works with the food industry to drive home the importance of food safety and the consequences of foodborne illness. Together, we work to raise awareness, create and sustain strong food safety cultures and to promote the importance of food safety.

Deirdre Schlunegger will be speaking as part of a panel of experts during the Food Safety: Past, Present & Future Plenary Session during the Food Safety Consortium, November 29th at 4:00pm.

I was in good company with Frank Yiannas as he spoke of food safety culture and his book was even translated into Spanish for this conference. Tim Jackson from Driscoll’s and DeAnn Benesh from 3M addressed technical issues related to food safety and many others spoke. Food Safety representatives from Chile and around the globe were very interested and are dedicated to the topic and practice.

I am proud that we are among the nonprofit, behavioral and scientific experts and making a difference as food safety culture, tools, data and interventions improve. I have already been contacted to see if the video, which I showed in Spanish, can be used throughout Chile in the coming months.

Just a few days following his conference, I was in Greenbelt Maryland attending the JIFSAN (Joint Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition) Conference and Advisory meeting as I serve on the Advisory Council. The topic was Risk Analysis Tools and Data and it was a fascinating two days. Again, professionals who teach and share food safety knowledge around the world gathered to share vision, tools and practices.

The 5th Annual Food Safety Consortium conference will take place November 28 through December 1st and we will be there! We continue to see a strong drive and desire to improve food safety and we need to continue to press until the estimated number of people who die each year from foodborne illness diminishes significantly from 3,000 towards zero. No one should die from nourishing their body with food.

I am ending this blog with the powerful story of Aly: http://www.stopfoodborneillness.org/stories/aly/

Jordan Anderson, PAR Technology Corp.
FST Soapbox

How the IoT Influences Restaurant Food Safety & Management

By Jordan Anderson
1 Comment
Jordan Anderson, PAR Technology Corp.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way restaurants do business in 2017. Today, business owners can trace products from point-of-purchase to their doorstep using IoT devices that monitor their location and more importantly, their temperature along the way. These devices are helping keep food safe, streamlining inventory management and giving owners the real-time information they need when managing multiple locations.

Monitoring Food Safety

Nothing gets the attention of a restaurant owner quicker than a foodborne illness outbreak. When it happens, they need to know which products were involved.

IoT devices allow owners to track their food from the time they order to the time it arrives. Even in the back of a tractor-trailer rolling down the highway, owners can check to see the temperature of their food, and can obtain the data trail during its entire journey to see how it was handled, and to ensure safety standards were met.

This data is especially important since the U.S. Federal Government enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, which intends to protect public health by reinforcing the U.S. food safety program. Food-based businesses are now required to establish preventative control systems modeled after HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) guidelines and prove their compliance by maintaining at least two-years of documentation.

Traceability measures utilizing IoT efficiently gathers and manages this information, giving owners the peace of mind they need to ensure their food has been handled properly. Not only that, but they have the data to prove it.

Inventory Control and Management

IoT devices help manage the cost of inventory by providing the real-time data that owners need when ordering stock and forecasting needs based on their menu. The data collected by the IoT devices ensures the freshest ingredients are available for dishes, and expired products are disposed of properly.

Tracking inventory from farm-to-fork prevents food waste, deters in-house theft and helps manage the cost of inventory.

Other questions and action items that IoT devices can help manage include:

  • Who placed the order, authorized the purchase, and accepted the delivery?
  • What was ordered and what are the products’ proper temperature ranges?
  • When did the order take place and when did it arrive? When is its expiration date?
  • What is the origin of the product and how did it travel to get to you?

This can help specifically within the restaurant retail market where pick-up and deliveries are becoming more prevalent.

For example: If a customer changes their scheduled pick-up, or drop-off times, retailers must have technology in place that will monitor food safety best practices. Deli, produce and dairy related products could use pre-determined checklists that will verify items were picked correctly, bagged properly and temperatures are checked to FDA regulated standards. While FDA regulations pertaining to FSMA are stricter than ever, it has never been more important for food safety technology to be integrated within the adoption of omnichannel restaurant practices. The likes of digitalized checklist management, temperature control and traceability will have a tremendous impact on continued growth and service within the marketplace.

IoT Devices and Temperature Control

Utilizing the IoT is a critical aspect of quality control. These devices are equipped with a temperature probe, barcode scanner and RFID infrared temperature reader that monitors and tracks your food throughout its journey in the supply chain.

Here’s how it works:

  • The probe, infrared and RFID scanner track and measure the temperature of each product.
  • The IoT software prompts employees to complete checklists, including temperature checks on a regular basis.
  • Each time the data is collected, it is immediately uploaded to a secure cloud and is accessible anytime, from anywhere.
  • While in the cloud, you can customize, store, filter and analyze the information.
  • Users are alerted immediately if any steps are overlooked, like non-observed items, missed checklists and violations, in addition to any corrective actions that address temperature concerns.
  • Should an issue arise, you have the detailed, automated audit trail to prove your company followed proper food safety protocol.

IoT Devices Can Create Modern Dining Experiences

Aside from helping to streamline and manage day-to-day operations, IoT devices can create a unique dining experience for your customers.

For example, if you love seafood – some restaurants are using IoT devices to track where and when seafood is harvested. One example of this kind of initiative is the Boat-to-Plate project funded by a grant from the Mid-Coast Fishermen’s Association. This project developed an app for anglers to upload information regarding their catch. Restaurant owners are using IoT information like this to create unique dining experiences.

IoT and You

How do you plan to use IoT technology in 2017? Integrating IoT practices gives your business the food safety solution needed to help keep food safe, improve supply chain traceability, manage your inventory and gain better control over your bottom-line.