Tag Archives: bacteria

Colleen Costello, VitalVio
FST Soapbox

Shining New Light on Preventing Food Recalls

By Colleen Costello
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Colleen Costello, VitalVio

Recalls have become an unfortunate reality for the food and beverage industry. It seems every month, another grocer pulls inventory from its shelves due to contaminated products that are potentially harmful for consumers.

Last month, it was Kroger that was forced to remove beef products from stores in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana as part of Aurora Packing Company’s recall of more than 62,000 pounds of meat that may have been infected with E. coli. Not only do these situations hurt the reputation and bottom line of companies across the food supply chain—from the manufacturer to the retail store—there is the potential for these issues to become deadly.

The CDC counts 3,000 deaths, 128,000 hospitalizations and 48 million foodborne illness cases every year. While the food industry has put stricter guidelines into place for recalling contaminated products, the key to preventing illness is to take an even more proactive stance toward making food free of harmful pathogens before it reaches consumers’ plates.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

The 2019 Food Safety Consortium Conference & Expo features an entire track on sanitation | October 1–3 | Schaumburg, ILComplexities of the Food Supply Chain

The food industry faces unique supply chain challenges. First, consider that the industry is dealing with products that come from the ocean or earth. Once obtained, these products are boxed, sent, in many cases long distances, to a facility via truck or cargo ship, where our foods undergo a number of processing mechanisms before being put back in a shipping container and sent off to a store. When they finally make it in-store, they’re moved from the backroom to the store floor. After all this, these products go into our mouths and through our digestive systems.

There are often many complex steps food has to go through before it makes it into our homes—and with each level of the food supply chain comes a new opportunity for things to go wrong and contamination to happen. What makes the food supply chain even more frightening is that pinpointing the root cause of harmful pathogens—such as E. coli or Listeria—by retracing all the potential contacts points is very challenging given their microscopic nature. All in all, the germs are beating us.

Old Disinfection Techniques Aren’t Cutting It

To mitigate the issue of contamination and avoid those dreaded recalls, food companies have prioritized disinfection. Most often, techniques include manually washing processing equipment with chemicals to keep them sanitized, and even spraying food products with antibiotics to directly kill harmful germs. However, these solutions have many limitations and are either intermittent in their use or insufficient to tackle the complexity of challenges associated with the food processing environment.

First, the tide is beginning to turn on the use of chemicals on food products, with consumers having growing concerns with introducing antibiotics in their food. There’s heightened and justified skepticism over the use of antibiotics and fears over the potential impact on resistance through overuse. In other words, consumers are afraid of the potential side effects from ingesting these chemicals on a daily basis and the alternative resistance bacteria they promote.

The truth is that the excessive use of antibiotics makes them less effective. This is due to frequently exposed bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics over time. The result is that antibiotics are no longer as effective at killing these germs, which is at the heart of great concern for the public’s health.

Resistant bacteria can be passed from food-producing animals to humans in a number of ways. If an animal is carrying resistant bacteria, it can be passed on through meat that is not handled or cooked properly. Plus, food crops are regularly sprayed with fertilizers, which can contain animal manure with resistant bacteria. Once spread to humans, resistant bacteria can stay in the human gut and spread between individuals. The consequences of the introduction of these germs and the subsequent consumption of them include infections that would not have happened otherwise.

Second, cleaning equipment with chemicals and disinfectants is important, but only intermittently effective. While someone working in a food processing plant uses chemicals to clean off a surface or container before food touches it, there’s still an opportunity for harmful bacteria to land on the space in between washes from many sources including the air, packaging, other food, etc. Not to mention there is a wide variety of different surfaces and nodes that food touches as it moves throughout a plant and across the supply chain. Every single surface is a distinct and new opportunity for germs to live, and simply scrubbing these areas a few times a day (or once a day in some cases) simply isn’t enough to keep these germs away. By solely relying on the intermittent use of chemicals to sanitize, it seems virtually impossible to ensure contamination is not ever introduced along the way to your table.

The Introduction of Continuous Disinfection Using Light

Intermittent sanitization hasn’t been disproven to be a wholly effective way to kill germs—it’s simply not a strong enough line of defense in and of itself. Perhaps, one of the best ways to protect our food from harmful bacteria and prevent expensive recalls altogether is to introduce and layer in a new breed of “continuous disinfection” technology using bacteria-killing visible LED lighting directly into the process.

Going back to more than a century ago, scientists have known that certain wavelengths of light are highly effective at destroying bacteria. Ultraviolet (UV) light is extremely powerful, but it is also especially dangerous to humans and causes things like plastics to become brittle and crack. UV light directly impacts the DNA in people, animals and plants, along with bacterial cells.

There is, however, a very human-friendly frequency of light (405 nanometers), which is in the visible spectrum of light, that is completely harmless to humans, but just as devastating to bacteria. It activates the porphyrin molecules that exist only within unicellular organisms such as bacteria and fungi. Humans, animals and plants do not have these particular molecules. Exposure to 405 nm light directly activates these molecules and essentially rusts bacteria from the inside out destroying any bacteria that is exposed to this human-friendly light. The ability of this new LED tool to be safely used around the clock allows for it to be acting continuously. This continuous nature goes above and beyond the existing limitations of intermittent cleaning.

With the advent of LED lighting, it is now possible to “tune” the frequency of light with extreme precision. The significant breakthrough of isolating light to this specific frequency of violet-blue light has now begun to enter the food processing industry. It is taking its place as a critical component to the layered defenses against harmful bacteria entering the food chain. When left on, this light continuously kills bacteria, preventing any germ colonies from forming and replicating. This has now become the perfect complement to the proper cleaning and sanitizing of all surfaces used in food processing and preparation—intermittent chemical cleaning working together with continuous disinfection from light.

In short, avoiding outbreaks and infection crises is all about smart prevention. Recalls are a reactionary solution to the problem. The key to preventing these potentially deadly (and costly) situations is to make sure that all facilities that process and handle food are continuously disinfected. The good news is that tech startups are at the helm of developing these new tools for killing germs before they even have a chance to have a seat at our tables.

Chipotle

Chipotle Retraining Workers Following Illnesses that Shut Down Ohio Location

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Chipotle

Last month Chipotle Mexican Grill closed a location in Powell, Ohio after nearly 650 reported illnesses were tied to the location. The outbreak was caused by Clostridium perfringens, a type of bacteria that thrives at room temperature—in other words, food at this particular Chipotle location may have been kept at unsafe temperatures.

Following this latest incident, the company has decided it will retrain all of its estimated 70,000 employees on food safety and wellness protocols. Currently a source of the outbreak has not been found.

“Chipotle has a zero-tolerance policy for any violations of our stringent food safety standards. We are committed to doing all we can to ensure it does not happen again.” – Brian Niccol, Chipotle

In line with the company’ zero-tolerance policy, some employees who worked at the Powell location were reportedly let go after the outbreak.

Chipotle has had several outbreaks that have made headlines over the last three years.

Jordan Anderson, PAR Technology Corp.
FST Soapbox

Four Core Principles of Food Safety

By Jordan Anderson
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Jordan Anderson, PAR Technology Corp.

As winter ends and summer approaches, most of us will emerge from our houses and start enjoying the nice weather. Even better, hopefully we all will be hosting or attending numerous BBQ’s and get-togethers. Burgers, chicken, salads and the like will be readily available; however, how can we be sure we’re keeping our food and guests safe from a foodborne illness?

The more hands and foods involved, the higher the risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Fortunately, today, we know much more about proper hygiene, food handling and preparation to combat these harrowing outbreaks.

According to the CDC, one in six Americans become ill due to foodborne illness each year. As the fight to combat this issue wages on, there are specific measures we can take to protect ourselves daily. While foodborne illnesses will likely never be eradicated, utilizing the ‘Core 4’ principles of food safety remain a viable approach to limiting its prevalence. This column outlines these ‘Core 4’ principles.

Clean

Infectious bacteria can thrive anywhere within the kitchen. By placing an emphasis on hand, utensil and surface washing, we begin to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The following are some easy-to-follow cleansing tips:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm running water before and after handling food or using the bathroom.
  • Wash the surfaces of cutting boards, counters, dishes and utensils after each use with warm, soapy water.
  • Use paper towels to clean counters or spills as they soak in potential contaminants, rather than spread them like cloth towels.
  • Rinse or blanch the surfaces of fresh fruits and vegetables to rid of any dirt or bacteria.

Separate

Even though we now wash our hands and surfaces consistently, we can still be exposed to dangerous illness-inducing bacteria by not properly separating raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs. To avoid cross-contamination, we can follow these tips:

  • Avoid placing ready-to-eat food on a surface that previously held raw meat, seafood, poultry, or eggs. An example would be: Placing your now-grilled chicken on the same plate in which you carried it to the grill.
  • Use separate cutting boards when preparing fresh produce and uncooked meats. This eliminates the spread of any bacteria either may be carrying to the other.
  • Request or separate raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs in your grocery bags. This eliminates the spread of bacteria in the event there is an unsealed package.
  • Always properly wash the surfaces exposed to these raw items under warm, soapy running water.

Cook

Regardless of how proactive we are with cleaning and separating, we still must ensure that we cook our food to the appropriate internal temperature. Undercooking may result in the survival of dangerous bacteria that could make us ill. Foodsafety.org recommends the following safe minimum temperatures:

  • Steak/Ground Beef: 160°F.
  • Chicken/Turkey: 165°F.
  • Seafood: 145°F.
  • Eggs: Until the yolk and white are firm; for egg dishes warm until 160°F.

Chill

Last yet not least, we must also learn to appropriately chill our food. Chilling is important because it decelerates the bacterial growth process. By mitigating this, it allows us to reduce the risk of contracting a foodborne illness. The following suggestions are encouraged:

  • For starters: Always keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below.
  • Do not over-pack your refrigerator. Proper airflow circulation is paramount.
  • Refrigerate any meats, egg, or perishables immediately upon return from the store.
  • Do not allow raw meats, egg, or fresh produce to sit out for more than two hours without refrigeration.

By taking these principles into consideration, you can ensure the protection of your friends, family and self, leading to better times and memories gained.

Resource

FoodSafety.gov. Food Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/index.html

FSMA

FDA Releases Chapter 6 of Draft Guidance for PC Rule

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FSMA

Last week FDA released the sixth chapter of the draft guidance, “Draft Guidance for Industry: Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food”. The document aims to assist food facilities in establishing and implementing a heat treatment (i.e., baking or cooking) to prevent bacterial contamination.

Learn more about FSMA compliance at the 2017 Food Safety Consortium | November 28– December 1 | The 60-page draft guidance addresses the use of heat treatments as a process control, providing information on understanding potential hazards, design and validation of the heat treatment, establishing and implementing monitoring procedures (and how often), verification, and record keeping.

FDA states that it intends to publish at least 14 chapters of the guidance. In just two weeks, the compliance date for the preventive controls for human food rule falls for small businesses (fewer than 500 full-time employees).

Hygiena ZymoSnap ALP

Hygiena Makes Verifying Milk Pasteurization a Snap

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Hygiena ZymoSnap ALP

Hygiena, LLC has launched an alkaline phosphatase (ALP) testing system that can verify pasteurization efficiency in short shelf life dairy products in five minutes.  ZymoSnap ALP requires minimal equipment and can be used without special technical knowledge or testing facilities. It is also designed to provide repeat results at low levels (25–100 mU/L). Campden BRI independently validated the test.

“Manufacturers of dairy products are under constant pressure to demonstrate compliance with international safety and quality requirements. That’s why they need to regularly monitor and verify the efficiency of their pasteurisation process. With this in mind, we have developed ZymoSnap ALP to enable tests to be carried out rapidly allowing for an immediate pass/fail assessment and trend analysis. It has never been easier or quicker to ensure that pasteurisation processes are operating efficiently.” – Martin Easter, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, Hygiena

Hygiena ZymoSnap ALP
The Hygiena ZymoSnap ALP test

A 100% recyclable device, the ZymoSnap ALP Positive Control Kit provides a reference point for the regulatory limit of liquid milk and validation of other dairy products. It is compatible with the company’s EnSURE monitoring system, a luminometer that is used to detect indicators and bacteria, including coliform, E. coli and Enterobacteriaceae.

Recall

325,000 Pounds of Meat Lard Products Recalled due to Processing Deviation

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

On Friday the USDA announced a large recall of 325,000 pounds of meat and poultry fat and lard products by Supreme Cuisine. The Class I recall is due to a processing deviation that could cause bacterial pathogens to grow and survive in the products. The duck, beef and pork fat and lard products, which have a one-year shelf life, were produced and packaged from June 1, 2016 through May 8, 2017.

The issue was uncovered after Supreme Cuisine received a consumer complaint of a loose lid. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of the products, and consumers are being urged to discard any of these products.

FSIS is providing a full list of the recalled products here on its website.

Dollar

Trends and Real Cost of Product Recalls

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Dollar

Last year, nearly 550 food products were recalled in the United States. Nearly half of those recalls were a result of biological contamination, a whopping 65% of which was due to Listeria monocytogenes, according to Rentokil. The company recently released an infographic about the cost of a product recall, pulling out some of the key trends in food product recalls in the United States and the United Kingdom. Next to biological contamination, mislabeling continues to be a large issue.

Rentokil Product Recalls 2016
The Cost of a Product Recall in the Food Industry. Infographic courtesy of Rentokil.
Nur Hasan, CosmosID
Food Genomics

Metagenomes and Their Utility

By Gregory Siragusa, Douglas Marshall, Ph.D., Nur A. Hasan
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Nur Hasan, CosmosID

Recall that in article one of this series we wrote that there are two main techniques to obtain a microbiome, a targeted (e.g., bacteria or fungi) or a metagenome (in which all DNA in a sample is sequenced, not just specific targets like bacteria or fungi).  In this column we will now explore metagenomes and some applications to food safety and quality.

We have invited Dr. Nur Hasan of CosmosID, Inc., an expert in the field of microbial metagenomics, to share his deep knowledge of metagenomics. Our format will be an interview style.

Safe food production and preservation is a balancing act between food enzymes and microbes. We will start with some general questions about the microbial world, and then proceed deeper into why and how tools such as metagenomics are advancing our ability to explore this universe. Finally, we will ask Dr. Hasan how he sees all of this applying to food microbiology and safe food production.

Greg Siragusa/Doug Marshall: Thank you for joining us. Dr. Hasan, please give us a brief statement of your background and current position.

Nur Hasan: Thanks for having me. I am a molecular biologist by training. I did my bachelor and masters in microbiology, M.B.A in marketing, and Ph.D. in molecular biology. My current position is vice president and head of research and development at CosmosID, Inc., where I am leading the effort on developing the world’s largest curated genome databases and ultra rapid bioinformatics tools to build the most comprehensive, actionable and user-friendly metagenomic analysis platform for both pathogen detection and microbiome characterization.

Siragusa/Marshall: The slogan for CosmosID is “Exploring the Universe of Microbes”. What is your estimate of the numbers of bacterial genera and species that have not yet been cultured in the lab?

Hasan: Estimating the number of uncultured bacteria on earth is an ongoing challenge in biology. The widely accepted notion is more than 99% of bacteria from environmental samples remain ‘unculturable’ in the laboratory; however, with improvements in media design, adjustment of nutrient compositions and optimization of growth conditions based on the ecosystem these bacteria are naturally inhabiting, scientists are now able to grow more bacteria in the lab than we anticipated. Yet, our understanding is very scant on culturable species diversity across diverse ecosystems on earth. With more investigators using metagenomics tools, many ecosystems are being repeatedly sampled, with ever more microbial diversity revealed. Other ecosystems remain ignored, so we only have a skewed understanding of species diversity and what portion of such diversity is actually culturable. A report from Schloss & Handelsman highlighted the limitations of sampling and the fact that it is not possible to estimate the total number of bacterial species on Earth.1 Despite the limitation, they took a stab at the question and predicted minimum bacterial species richness to be 35,498. A more recent report by Hugenholtz estimated that there are currently 61 distinct bacterial phyla, of which 31 have no cultivable representatives.2 Currently NCBI has about 16,757 bacterial species listed, which represent less than 50% of minimum species richness as predicted by Schloss & Handelsman and only a fraction of all global species richness of about 107 to 109 estimated by Curtis and Dykhuizen.3,4

Siragusa/Marshall: In generic terms what exactly is a metagenome? Also, please explain the meaning of the terms “shotgun sequencing”, “shotgun metagenomes”, and “metagenomes”.  How are they equivalent, similar or different?

Hasan: Metagenome is actually an umbrella term. It refers to the collection of genetic content of all organisms present in a given sample. It is studied by a method called metagenomics that involves direct sequencing of a heterogeneous population of DNA molecules from a biological sample all at once. Although in most applications, metagenome is often used to refer to microbial metagenome (the genes and genomes of microbial communities of given sample), in a broader sense, it actually represents total genetic makeup of a sample including genomes and gene sequences of other materials in the sample, such as nucleic acids contributed by other food ingredients of plant and animal origin. The metagenome provides an in-depth understanding of the composition, structure, functional and metabolic activities of food, agricultural and human communities.

Shotgun sequencing is a method where long strands of DNA (such as an entire genome of a bacterium) are randomly shredded (“shotgunning”) into smaller DNA fragments, so that they can be sequenced individually. Once sequenced, these small fragments are then assembled together into contigs by computer programs that find overlaps in the genetic code, and the complete sequence of the bacterial genome is generated. Now, instead of one genome, if you directly sequence entire assemblage of genomes from a metagenome using such shotgun approach, it’s called shotgun metagenomics and resulting output is termed a shotgun metagenome. By this method, you are literally sequencing thousands of genomes simultaneously from a given metagenome in one assay and get the opportunity to reconstruct individual genomes or genome fragments for investigation and comparison of the genetic consortia and taxonomic composition of complete communities and their predicted functions. Whereas targeted 16S rRNA or targeted 16S amplicon sequencing relies on amplification and sequencing of one target region, the 16S gene region, shotgun metagenomics is actually target free, it is aimed at sequencing entire genomes of every organism present in a sample and gives a more accurate, and unbiased biological representation of a sample. As an analogy of shotgun metagenomics, lets think about your library where you may have multiple books (like as different organisms present in a metagenome). You can imagine shotgun metagenomics as a process whereby all books from your library are shredded, mixed up, and then you will assemble the small shredded pieces to find text overlap and piecing the cover of all books together to reassemble each of your favorite books. Shotgun metagenomics approximates this analogy.

Metagenome and metagenomics are often used interchangeably. Where metagenome is the total collection of all genetic material from a given samples, metagenomics is the method to obtain a metagenome that utilizes a shotgun sequencing approach to sequence all these genetic material at once.

Shotgun sequencing and shotgun metagenomics are also used interchangeably. Shotgun sequencing is a technique where you fragment large DNA strands into small pieces and sequence all small fragments. Now, if you apply such techniques to sequence a metagenome, than we call it shotgun metagenomics.

Go to page 2 of the interview below.

Sprouts

FDA’s Draft Guidance Aims to Help Keep Sprouts Contamination Free

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Sprouts

Between 1996 and 2016, sprouts have been responsible to 46 outbreaks in the United States, which has led to nearly 2500 illnesses and three deaths, according to FDA. They have presented a consistent challenge to operators, because sprouts are most often produced in conditions that are ideal for bacteria growth.

Today FDA issued a draft guidance to assist sprout operators in complying with the FSMA Produce Rule, which requires “covered sprout operations take measures to prevent the introduction of dangerous microbes into seeds or beans used for sprouting, test spent sprout irrigation water (or, in some cases, in-process sprouts) for the presence of certain pathogens, test the growing, harvesting, packing and holding environment for the presence of the Listeria species or Listeria monocytogenes, and take corrective actions when needed.”

Large sprout operators must comply with the Produce Rule (applicable provisions) by January 26. Small business must comply by January 26, 2018 and very small businesses by January 28, 2019.

The draft guidance, Compliance with and Recommendations for Implementation of the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption for Sprout Operations, is open for comment for the next 180 days.

Recall

Possible Adulteration, About 2 Million Pounds of RTE Chicken Recalled

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

National Steak and Poultry has recalled about 1,976,089 pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products over concerns of bacterial pathogen survival in its products. According to FSIS, the product was adulterated due to “possible undercooking”. The expanded recall (the original recall included more than 17,000 pounds of product) was a result of a food service customer compliant  to an establishment on November 28 that a product appeared to be undercooked. The products of concern were produced from August 20 through November 30, 2016.

FSIS has provided a complete list of the expanded recall products on its website. There have been no reports of adverse events due to consumption of the products, but consumers are being urged to discard or return the items.