Tag Archives: contamination

Ainsley Lawrence
Allergen Alley

Food Allergen Management in Manufacturing: Best Practices and Regulatory Compliance

By Ainsley Lawrence
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Ainsley Lawrence

Minimizing the risk of contamination is a must if you work in food manufacturing. Accidentally including allergens in your products can cause harm to consumers, undermine your brand image, and lead to hefty lawsuits.

Even major food industry brands like McDonald’s fall foul of food safety laws from time to time. Recently, a man with a dairy allergy was allegedly served cheese in his Big Mac1, resulting in anaphylactic shock. This caused a large lawsuit and could damage the global food giant’s reputation.

You can take steps to stay in line with regulations and best practices by training your staff and implementing proper procedures. This will reduce the risk of human error and help you produce food that is both tasty and safe for consumers.

Food Safety Modernization Act

Most people think of food contamination as a thing of the past. However, 1 in 6 Americans2 fell ill due to foodborne diseases last year. This led to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) seeks to end this issue by bringing food manufacturing standards into the modern age. This means you may need to revise your approach to manufacturing to stay on the right side of changing guidelines. At its core, the FSMA includes:

  • Preventive Controls for Human Foods: Since 2015, food manufacturers have been required to produce a food safety plan. This plan should include key details like potential hazards and risk-mitigation strategies that are currently in place.
  • Third-Party Accreditation: Receiving a third-party authentication can keep you up to date with changing guidelines. Similarly, only working with suppliers who have been verified via third parties who work to ISO/IEC standards ensures that allergens don’t enter your facility from suppliers.
  • Preventing Intentional Adulteration: No employer wants to believe that their employees would intentionally harm consumers — but it does happen. The FSMA ruling against intentional adulteration means that you can seek support from the intelligence community if you suspect that a stakeholder is intentionally contaminating your supply.

These FSMA regulations aren’t exhaustive and should be seen as the bare minimum. You’ll still need to take proactive steps to improve communication on the food plant floor3 and should implement policies like proper labeling to keep contaminants and allergens separated.

Proper Labeling

If you’re producing food for public consumption, you must properly label your food. Failing to declare that allergens may enter a certain product will land you in legal trouble and will put consumers at risk. Rather than risking an allergic reaction, follow FDA labeling guidelines4 which include:

  • Clearly labeling the eight major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans).
  • Including the source name of foods (for example, the source name of whey is milk, meaning your label should include “whey (milk)”).
  • Provide advisory statements like “may contain [allergen]” and “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen].”
  • Conduct regular testing and monitoring of products and processes to ensure that allergens have not entered the batch.

Taking these steps minimizes the risk of labeling errors and protects consumers. This is particularly important if you want to produce a product that is specifically allergen-free (for example, gluten-free or dairy-free). Failing to declare ingredients properly puts consumers at risk and will land you in hot legal water.

Segregating Allergens

Managing potential allergens is crucial if you work in a food manufacturing plant that produces multiple products. Failing to properly segregate allergens undermines your labeling system and increases the risk of cross-contamination between workstations.

You can minimize the risk of allergens entering the system by using simulations to improve business processes5. Virtual simulations are capable of generating scenarios that you may not have thought of but are likely to occur. You can also use constructive simulations to visualize what might happen should an allergen make its way into the supply. This is particularly important when onboarding new employees who may not understand the risk that allergens present to the food production process.

You can also use emerging technology to improve production6 and reduce the risk of contamination. For example, as your firm grows, you may want to invest in AI and advanced robotics. Robotics can react quickly to changing demand and are less likely to inadvertently spread allergens throughout your supply. This is particularly important when carrying out repetitive tasks, like filling pre-packaged sandwiches or seasoning foods. Automated robots can take care of these mundane tasks, leaving human workers to focus on more creative tasks.

Some food manufacturers, like Walmart, are also using blockchain technology to trace and track contamination. This can improve your crisis management plan7 and bolster operational resilience. Your crisis management team leader can tap into tech to improve communications and simulate potential breaches. This will help you practice your crisis management plan and will ensure that you’re able to pinpoint errors to learn from in the future.

Sanitary food handling

Sanitation Procedures

Regularly sanitizing your workspace is crucial if you want to produce clean, allergen-free goods. This applies to your people, too, who may inadvertently bring allergens in with them when they arrive at work or move between stations.

However, you can’t expect regular handwashing to be enough. Instead, embrace the digital revolution and use data8 to clean up your production line. This will improve reporting and ensure that compliance guidelines are followed at all times. For example, if you suspect that your employees are not washing their hands thoroughly enough, you can use digital products to track employee handwashing and time folks while they apply hot, soapy water.

Digital tracking can also alert you to potentially unclean workstations. For example, if you work in a bakery and typically produce most of your dough before dawn, a digital program can track the contaminants that have entered the workspace in order to produce your bread or baked goods. This will alert you to potential allergen risks and ensure that any workstation that has used an ingredient like gluten is properly sanitized in a timely fashion.

Staff Training

Properly training your employees is key to minimizing contamination risk and staying on the right side of regulatory compliance laws. A proper approach to training will empower employees and help them understand the potential risks involved with food manufacturing.

However, proper training doesn’t mean that you should force your workers to sit through hours of PowerPoint. Instead, train smarter, not harder9 by conducting training that is:

  • Legitimate. Before asking folks to engage in further training, ask yourself whether or not you are qualified to speak on the subject. If not, consider bringing in a speaker who is well-respected in the food safety industry.
  • Authentic. Build a culture of trust and engagement at your workplace by working with speakers and programs that are accredited and up to date with compliance law. This will convince folks that your speakers are worth listening to and that your training programs are worth completing.
  • Engaging. Don’t force your employees to sit through lengthy seminars without an opportunity to engage. Instead, encourage participation by creating engaging training programs that help folks learn skills as they go.
  • Simplistic. Food safety can be complex. Cut through this complexity by giving folks simple, actionable steps to take. This will minimize the risk of folks forgetting your policies and will empower employees who want to improve safety at work.

These training principles are well-established in the food production and safety world. Even simple changes, like including a quiz or mock preparation test, will pique people’s interest and ensure that employees are engaged when receiving training. If you fail to run engaging, intelligent training, you put yourself at greater risk of contamination during production.

Conclusion

Following FDA guidelines should keep your consumers safe by minimizing the risk of an allergen entering your workspace. However, you’ll need to go above and beyond minimum requirements if you want to completely eliminate the risk of contamination. Get the ball rolling by embracing the digital revolution and using automation or robotics to handle more mundane tasks. This empowers employees and reduces the risk of human errors during production.

References:

  1. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/man-dairy-allergy-sues-mcdonalds-alleging-cheese-big-mac-caused-anaphy-rcna137252
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-regulation-food-and-dietary-supplements/food-safety-modernization-act-fsma
  3. https://foodsafetytech.com/column/improving-communication-on-the-food-plant-floor/
  4. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/food-allergies
  5. https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/business-process-simulation
  6. https://foodsafetytech.com/column/four-influential-technologies-changing-food-manufacturing/
  7. https://riskonnect.com/business-continuity-resilience/crisis-management-plan-create/
  8. https://foodsafetytech.com/column/managing-food-safety-testing-and-sanitation-data-should-be-easier/
  9. https://foodsafetytech.com/feature_article/train-smarter-not-harder-utilizing-effective-training-to-empower-employees/
Vulto Creamery Cheese

Vulto Creamery Owner Pleads Guilty in Connection with Raw Milk Listeria Outbreak

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Vulto Creamery Cheese

Johannes Vulto, a former raw milk cheese manufacturer and his company, Vulto Creamery LLC, pleaded guilty to charges related to cheese that was linked to a 2016-2017 outbreak of listeriosis, the U.S. Department of Justic announced earlier this month.

Vulto and Vulto Creamery LLC, each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of causing the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce. Vulto oversaw operations at Vulto Creamery manufacturing facility in Walton, New York, including those relating to sanitation and environmental monitoring. In pleading guilty, Vulto and Vulto Creamery admitted that between December 2014 and March 2017, they caused the shipment in interstate commerce of adulterated cheese.

According to the plea agreement, environmental swabs taken at the Vulto Creamery facility between approximately July 2014 and February 2017 repeatedly tested positive for Listeria species. In March 2017, after the FDA linked Vulto Creamery’s cheese to an outbreak of listeriosis, Vulto shut down the Vulto Creamery facility and issued a partial recall that was expanded to a full recall within weeks. According to the CDC, the listeriosis outbreak resulted in eight hospitalizations and two deaths.

During a 2017 FDA inspection of the facility, the inspector noted that in the 20 months from 7/28/2014 through 2/19/ 2017, the facility’s records revealed that 54 out of 198 swabs taken from throughout the facility tested positive for Listeria spp. The report also cited several potential causes of the contamination including: storage of sanitized wood boards used to age cheese in the facility attic, where they were exposed to insulation, debris and moisture; failure to maintain building, fixtures and other physical facilities in a sanitary condition; and employees putting their bare hands and arms, up to their elbows, directly into the cheese making vat to manually break up cheese curds. “Although you washed your hands, neither of you washed your lower or upper arms,” the inspector wrote.

“It is crucial that American consumers be able to trust that the foods they buy are safe to eat,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to hold responsible food manufacturers that sell dangerously contaminated products.”

Vulto faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison, a term of supervised release up to one year and a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for July 9, 2024.

 

 

 

Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

Five Technologies Impacting the Beverage Industry

By Emily Newton
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Emily Newton, Revolutionized Magazine

The beverage industry is undergoing a period of technological transformation. As consumer demand and supply chain pressures reveal the shortcomings of older systems and processes, beverage manufacturers are embracing new technologies at an unprecedented pace. While many of these trends are promising, some are more impactful than others. With that in mind, here are the five technologies making the biggest impact in the beverage industry.

Automation

While automation isn’t necessarily new, it is reaching new heights. Automation is becoming an essential part of the beverage sector as robotic systems become more accessible and versatile, and talent becomes harder to acquire.

The food and beverage industry currently has more than 4 million open positions and could add another 370,000 by 2031. With fewer young workers entering manufacturing, beverage facilities are turning to robotics to sustain productivity. The more automated a facility is, the more it can accomplish despite having fewer employees, offsetting the labor shortage.

Automation applies to more than just physical workflows, too. Robotic process automation is seeing increased adoption in back offices, where it can be used to boost productivity and reduce errors.

Artificial Intelligence

Another impactful technology in the beverage sector is artificial intelligence (AI). As beverage workflows become increasingly digitized, they generate more data. AI algorithms can analyze that data to turn it into actionable insights, helping beverage manufacturers predict and adapt to incoming changes and optimize their operations.

Common industry thinking holds that companies can only optimize two of three key variables—time, cost and quality—simultaneously. However, it’s often difficult for humans to determine which is the most valuable area for improvement in their businesses. AI can analyze workflow data to reveal weak points and highlight changes that would have the most significant impact, helping leaders make these decisions.

AI can also help predict future changes, including shifting consumer demand. With this insight, beverage producers can adjust to minimize losses and capitalize early on new trends. Those that don’t embrace AI analytics may quickly fall behind the competition as this technology becomes increasingly common.

The Internet of Things

As AI adoption grows, the Internet of Things (IoT) can help beverage companies make the most of these algorithms. IoT devices give previously unconnected machines wireless connectivity, providing more data points for AI models to analyze, improving their accuracy. This connectivity and data collection can also improve transparency.

One of the most impactful use cases for IoT sensors is in the supply chain. Connected tracking devices can provide real-time updates on shipment locations, temperature, vibrations and other factors. If anything falls out of acceptable parameters or schedules, they can alert relevant stakeholders so they can adapt to ensure safe, timely shipments.

IoT devices can also improve machine health by alerting workers to needed repairs. This data-driven, need-based approach prevents costly breakdowns while minimizing downtime from unnecessary maintenance.

Biotechnology

While many of the most impactful technologies in the beverage industry appear within manufacturing facilities, some focus on earlier workflows. Biotechnology, such as gene editing, can optimize the farming operations that produce the ingredients beverage companies need.

Some bioengineered crops require less water to grow or are pest-resistant, minimizing the need for pesticides. These upgrades reduce farms’ ongoing expenses, making beverage ingredients cheaper for production facilities. Other bioengineering processes can make certain ingredients healthier or less environmentally impactful, both of which appeal to consumers.

Emerging biotechnology solutions let beverage companies use specially designed enzymes to gauge milk contamination and spoilage better. With these biological markers, businesses can ensure they don’t send poor-quality products to market and can trace contamination issues, leading to long-term improvements.

Renewable Energy

Another increasingly impactful technology for beverage companies today is renewable energy. As climate issues become more prominent, consumer preferences lean towards sustainable companies and products, even if that means paying more for products. Switching to renewable power helps energy-hungry beverage factories adapt to this demand and protect the environment.

Because renewables such as solar and wind are technologies, not fuel sources, they will only become cheaper and more efficient over time. Consequently, switching to these technologies is becoming an increasingly viable option for companies. They can also reduce energy costs long-term, as facilities begin to generate their own power instead of buying it from the grid.

Additionally, growing climate urgency may lead to increased regulations around industrial energy sources. Shifting to renewable power now can ensure beverage companies minimize disruption from any changing legislation.

Virtually every industry today is undergoing a tech-driven transformation. Capitalizing on this movement means being able to separate the buzzwords from the technologies that hold the most promise. These five technologies are among the most impactful for beverage companies today. As their adoption grows, they could dramatically alter the face of the industry.

magnifying glass

Pathogens, Contamination and Technology in Food Safety Key Themes of 2022 Thus Far

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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magnifying glass

Nearly halfway into the year, the following are the most-read articles of 2022:

6. Four Testing and Detection Trends for 2022

Four Testing and Detection Trends for 2022


5. Packaging Automation Can Be an Essential Tool for Food Manufacturers

Packaging Automation Can Be an Essential Tool for Food Manufacturers


4. 8 Reasons Sustainability is Critical in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

8 Reasons Sustainability is Critical in Food and Beverage Manufacturing


3. The Costs Of Food Safety: Correction vs. Prevention

The Costs Of Food Safety: Correction vs. Prevention


2. FDA Continues Investigation of Listeria Outbreak in Packaged Salad

FDA Continues Investigation of Listeria Outbreak in Packaged Salad

1. Coca Cola Recalls Minute Maid, Coca Cola and Sprite Drinks Due to Foreign Matter Contamination

Coca Cola Recalls Minute Maid, Coca Cola and Sprite Drinks Due to Foreign Matter Contamination

Kroger Ground Beef

FSIS Issues Public Health Alert About Possible E. Coli O26 Contamination in Ground Beef Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kroger Ground Beef

USDA’s FSIS has issued a public health alert regarding ground beef products that may be adulterated with E. coli O26. Since the products were produced on December 16 and 17, 2021, the products are no longer available for purchase—and thus the agency is not requesting a recall. However, since people frequently freeze ground beef, FSIS is concerned that these products could still in consumers’ freezers. The agency is urging consumers to check their ground beef products and not consumer the products listed in the public health alert.

The products were distributed to warehouses in Oregon and Washington and sold at retail locations, including Kroger. FSIS has provided images of the labels of the affected products.

The issue was uncovered after a consumer submitted one of the affected ground beef products to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis. Results confirmed the sample was positive for E. coli O26.

Across the country in New Jersey, Lakeside Refrigerated Services recently recalled more than 120,000 pounds of ground beef products due to concerns of E. coli O103 contamination.

Alpine Fresh Green Beans

Listeria Alert: Recall of Green Beans Spans 12 States

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Alpine Fresh Green Beans
Alpine Fresh Green Beans
Alpine Fresh’s “Hippie Organics” French Beans

Florida-based Alpine Fresh, Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of its “Hippie Organics” French Beans due to potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The recall affects 1-pound packages from lot# 313-626, and the products were sold across 12 states in Whole Foods, Aldi and LIDL retail stores.

The issue was uncovered during routing company testing and is isolated to the specific recalled lot, according to a company announcement on FDA’s website. Alpine Fresh states that corrective actions have been taken to prevent recurrence.

Thus far no illnesses related to the recall have been reported.

FDA

FDA and USDA Investigate Seasonal Factors Contributing to E. Coli Outbreaks Linked to Romaine Lettuce

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

CFSAN and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are conducting research to better understand the factors, including seasonal effects, that could be contributing to E. Coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to bagged romaine lettuce. FDA and USDA scientists presented findings in the BMC Environmental Microbiome, which revealed that E. Coli O157:H7 survived “significantly better in cold-stored packaged romaine harvested in the fall than on the same varieties harvested in late spring.” In addition, the researchers showed that the microbiome present on bagged lettuce changes based on the season, level of deterioration of the lettuce and whether survival of the pathogen on the lettuce was high or low. They also found that the pathogen survived better in lettuce that was harvested in the fall versus lettuce harvested in the spring during cold storage. “This is a significant step toward closing the knowledge gaps identified in the FDA’s Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan and helping the agency and its partners to reduce foodborne illness linked to the consumption of leafy greens,” CFSAN stated in an agency update.

The study, “Seasonality, shelf life and storage atmosphere are main drivers of the microbiome and E. coli O157:H7 colonization of post-harvest lettuce cultivated in a major production area in California”, has been published on the Environmental Microbiome’s website.

Kinder

Ferrero Recalls Certain Kinder Chocolates due to Potential Salmonella Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kinder

Parsippany, NJ-based Ferrero U.S.A., Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of its Kinder Happy Moments Chocolate Assortment and Kinder Mix Chocolate Treats basket over concerns that the products may be contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium.

“Ferrero deeply regrets this situation. We take food safety extremely seriously and every step we have taken has been guided by our commitment to consumer care. We will continue to work cooperatively with the Food and Drug Administration to address this matter.” – Ferrero, U.S.A.

Several Kinder products have been recalled outside the United States, including in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, France and Luxembourg, as a result of Salmonella contamination. Thus far there have been reportedly 105 confirmed cases of illnesses and 29 suspected cases—mainly in children under 10 years old.

Skippy peanut butter

Metal Fragments Prompt Recall of More Than 160,000 Pounds of Skippy Peanut Butter

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Skippy peanut butter

Skippy Foods, LLC issued a voluntary recall of certain peanut butter jars due to concerns of metal fragment contamination, which may have originated from a piece of manufacturing equipment. The recall affects 9,353 cases (161,692 pounds) of product: Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter (40 oz ), Skippy Reduced Fat Chunky Peanut Butter (16.3 oz), and Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter Blended with Plant Protein (14 oz). The products have various “Best If Used By” Dates ranging from May 4–10, 2023.

The issue was uncovered by the manufacturing facility’s internal detection systems. No other sizes or varieties of Skippy brand peanut butter or spreads are affected by this recall. In addition, no consumer complaints have been associated with this recall thus far.

Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center

Complexity of Food Allergen Management Requires Global Collaboration

By Maria Fontanazza
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Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center

Undeclared allergens continue to be a big cause of food recalls. For allergen management practices to be effective within food companies, there must be a shared responsibility between food manufacturers, government agencies, regulators and consumers, says Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Zhang discussed key concerns related to undeclared allergens in food as well as the research that Mars is conducting to improve allergen management.

Food Safety Tech: The presence of undeclared allergens continues to be a hazard in the food safety space. Specific to peanut detection, what challenges is the industry facing?

Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center
Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D., director of the Mars Global Food Safety Center. All images courtesy of Mars.

Guangtao Zhang, Ph.D.: As food materials become more varied and complicated, food allergen management becomes increasingly complex. Robust, accurate and sensitive detection methods are essential to ensure consumer safety as well as compliance with regulatory standards for allergens in the food supply chain.

When you look at the regulatory aspects, detection methods go hand in hand. Firstly, there is a need to ensure that current standard detection methods used in regulatory control of consumer goods are validated for a range of complex food matrices to ensure neither over- nor under-estimation of allergen content occurs within a food supply chain. This is important because underestimation of allergen poses a significant food safety hazard to consumers, while overestimation of allergen can result in unnecessary product recalls, driving up product costs and food waste.

Secondly, validation and monitoring of the effectiveness of cleaning and handling practices in areas of potential cross contamination with allergen containing materials depend on reliable and robust quantitative food allergen test methods for their success. The more robust the testing protocols, the more we can improve our understanding of the risks associated with cross contamination of food allergens, potentially reducing the frequency of accidental contamination events.
It is also important to note that whilst the most common cause of undeclared allergen in the global food supply chain is through accidental contamination in raw materials or finished products, this is not the only method by which undeclared allergen may be found in a product.

For example, peanut flour may be used in economically motivated adulteration (EMA) food fraud cases. In 2018 the European Commission estimated that the cost of food fraud for the global food industry is approximately €30 billion every year. Due to its high protein content, peanut flour has been used as a bulking agent to raise the overall protein content of e.g., wheat flour, thus raising the ‘quality’, and therefore price, of lower value goods. The ability to effectively quantify peanut traces within complex products therefore has the potential to enable consumers of food products to further trust the safety of the food they eat.

ELISA (Enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) is the method used most frequently for peanut allergen detection in the food manufacturing industry because of its sensitivity and ease of use. However, it has disadvantages in certain settings. It is not currently validated for complex food matrices, as it is believed that the effects of both food matrices and food processing could result in an underestimation of peanut concentrations in thermally processed foods, leading to false negatives, as well as overestimation in complex food matrices, leading to false positives which are a potential food safety hazard to consumers.

Food Safety Tech: Tell us about the research that the Mars Global Food Safety Center is doing to help the industry with effective methods for peanut quantification.

Zhang: At the Mars Global Food Safety Center (GFSC) we believe that everyone has the right to safe food and that we have a responsibility to generate and share insights to help solve for global food safety challenges. We also know we can’t tackle these alone, which is why we collaborate with external partners. One of our focus areas is advancing understanding and knowledge sharing in peanut allergen detection. As part of that work, we are exploring methods of improving food safety via the development of advanced analytical methods to detect peanut allergen content, in the hopes that it will enable the food industry to expand on current preventative management protocols, including early detection methodologies, for faster response to future food allergen contamination events.

As part of our latest published research, we investigated the accuracy and sensitivity of ELISA-based test methods on raw and cooked wheat flour, wheat flour-salt and wheat flour-salt-oil matrices, which are common ingredients in the food industry. 10 ppm peanut was doped into each matrix during sample preparation. Recovery testing demonstrated that in all matrices the current industry standard ELISA method overestimated results with recoveries ranging from 49.6 to 68.6 ppm.
These findings prompted the development of a new confirmatory method based on liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) for peanut quantification. When subjected to the same validation testing programme the HPLC-MS/MS technique was demonstrably more accurate and sensitive, with a limit of quantification of 0.3 ppm and the detected peanut concentration ranging from 6.8 to 12.8 ppm for samples doped with 10 ppm peanut.

This work is a first step in the development of a new standard method for peanut detection in complex food matrices and could ultimately inform safer manufacturing Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) processes across global supply chains to help ensure safe food for all.

Mars GFSC Lab Food Integrity Team
The Lab Food Integrity Team at the Mars Global Food Safety Center.

Food Safety Tech: What projects are researchers at the Center working on to enhance allergen management as a whole?

Zhang: A successful allergen management program depends on rigorous control of allergenic foods and ingredients from all other products and ingredients at every step of the food production process, from raw material development to the delivery of final products. This means that for allergen management practices to be effective, they must be a shared responsibility between food manufacturers, government agencies, regulators and consumers.

At the Mars GFSC, we take a precompetitive approach to research, knowledge sharing and collaborations—this means we openly share insights and expertise to help ensure safe food for all. This is important in driving forward innovations, helping unlock solutions that may not have previously been possible.

We have shared our latest work both through an open access publication in Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A but also directly with regulatory bodies such as the FDA in the hopes of advancing knowledge in both food safety risk management and allergen management in complex flour-based media within global supply chains. In addition to this, this research contributes to a wider Food Safety Best Practice whitepaper focused on food allergen risk management currently under draft by the Mars GFSC, which will be published in collaboration with Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center and the Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology (CIFST) later this year.

We believe that global collaborations such as this are essential to improving food allergen management and mitigating food safety risks. Communication, training and knowledge sharing are core principles of the Mars GFSC and as such form a large part of our ongoing activities in this space. For example, we have hosted Food Allergen Management workshops in collaboration with Danone and Romer Labs focused on helping to raise awareness of current and future food allergen trends. At one such event in 2019, 100 participants from 16 food companies came together to promote food allergen management in the industry and ensure that the next generation of food integrity testing capability is relevant, practical, and directly applicable to the real-world problems experienced by manufacturers and processors throughout the supply chain.

Representatives of the Mars GFSC have also shared our insights externally at a number of international conferences as well as during a Food Enterprise Food Allergen Management Seminar on topics including effective allergen management procedures, our guiding principles for allergen managements at Mars, and shared our approach to encourage and share knowledge with other manufactures in this area.

We continue to support requests for technical insights, for example providing insights during a global consultation session on General Principles for Labeling of Prepackaged Food. This resulted in the addition of characterization requirements for possible allergenic substances, promoting the use of a recognizable naming system in ingredient lists that contain allergen warnings.

Food Safety Tech: Can you comment on additional work your team is doing in the area of food fraud?

Zhang: Food allergen risk management forms only one part of our wider food integrity focus at the Mars GFSC. We are committed to helping ensure food authenticity in an increasingly complex, global food supply chain through collaboration with global partners to develop new and improved tools and analytical methods that help protect the integrity of raw materials and finished products.

We have collaborated with researchers at Michigan State University to develop a Food Fraud Prevention Cycle roadmap (Introducing the Food Fraud Prevention Cycle (FFPC): A dynamic information management and strategic roadmap) which answered questions such as how to detect food fraud, how to start a food fraud prevention program, what to do in terms of testing, how much testing is enough, and how to measure success. Our intention in publishing this research was that the adoption of a holistic and all-encompassing information management cycle will enable a globally harmonized approach and the continued sharing of best practices across industry partners.

More recently, we completed an international collaboration tackling rice adulteration together with Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), Agilent Technologies, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA), and Zhejiang Yangtze Delta Institute of Tsinghua University (Yangtze Delta). This work successfully developed a two-tier testing program, capable of rapidly screening the geographical origins of rice within the global supply chain (Food Fingerprinting: Using a two-tiered approach to monitor and mitigate food fraud in rice). By developing a tiered system, we could ensure that manufacturers use the right techniques for the right occasion, to maximize the information available in investigating food fraud at the best value. As part of this work, we have helped develop hands-on training in Ghana and inform best practice guidance to help build the foundations of a strong food safety culture in rice authenticity across the global supply chain.