Tag Archives: mitigation

Peas, UV light

Controlling and Mitigating Pathogens Throughout Production

By Troy Smith
1 Comment
Peas, UV light
Sampling
Product sampling

As the enforcement of rules, regulations and inspections get underway at food production facilities, we are faced with maintaining production rates while looking for infinitesimal pathogens and cleaning to non-detectible levels. This clearly sets demand on the plant for new and creative methods to control and mitigate pathogens pre-production, during production and post production.

As this occurs, the term clean takes on new meaning: What is clean, and how clean is clean? Swab and plate counts are now critically important. What method is used at the plant, who is testing, what sampling procedure is used, and how do we use the results? As we look at the process from start to finish, we must keep several key questions in mind: What are harboring points in the process, and what are the touch-point considerations to the product? Let’s review the overall processing progression through the factory (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Figure 1. The progression of processing of a food product through a facility.

Now consider micro pathogen contamination to the product, as we look deeper in the process for contamination or critical control points as used in successful HACCP plans. Consider contamination and how it may travel or contact food product. It is understood through study and research of both pathogens and plant operations that contamination may be introduced to the plant by the front door, back door, pallet, product, or by a person. In many cases, each of these considerations leads to uncontrolled environments that create uncontrolled measurements throughout, which lead to cleaning procedures based on time rather than science. This is certainly not to say that creating a preventive maintenance schedule based on a calendar is a bad thing. Rather, the message is to consider a deeper look at the pathogens and how they live and replicate. From the regulatory and control measures this should be a clear message of what food-to-pathogen considerations should be taken at the plant level as well as measurement methods and acceptable levels (which is not an easy answer, as each product and environment can change this answer). A good example to consider is public schools and children. Health organizations work to help the schooling system understand what immunizations children should have based on the current health risk tolerance levels. In food production, the consideration is similar in an everchanging environment. As we see contamination levels change the methods, techniques and solutions to proper food production must account for the pathogens of concern.

Contamination, Risk tolerance, Opportunity for Growth

Contamination, risk tolerance, and opportunity for growth are the considerations when looking at a plant design or a plant modification. Modification to modernization should be a top-of-mind critical quality control measure. If there are a few things we know, it is how to produce food at high rates of speed, measure and value production rates, and delays or failures can be measured by equipment and personnel performance. In the case of quality control, we must review, comprehend, and protect process risk. From a management or non-technical viewpoint, quality control can be very difficult to understand. When discussing pathogens, our concerns are not visible to the human eye—we are beyond a dirty surface, weare looking at risk tolerance based on pathogen growth in logarithmic measurement. When combining quality control and production, the measurement control and mitigation measures complement the effort. The use of quality control is expected and should coordinate with production to ensure the product is produced at the expected quality level.

Listeria

Listeria Workshop to Tackle Prevention, Detection and Mitigation

By Food Safety Tech Staff
1 Comment
Listeria

More effective environmental monitoring and improved sanitation practices, along with databases such as PulseNet, are helping the industry find Listeria contamination. However, once detected, many processing facilities have difficulty removing the bacteria.

Next month Food Safety Tech is holding a Listeria Detection & Control Workshop to educate food industry professionals about how to integrate prevention and mitigation procedures into existing sanitation, operation and testing programs. The two-day workshop, which takes place May 31 – June 1 in St. Paul, MN, will cover the basics of controlling Listeria, along with the following topics:

  • Detecting and penetrating biofilm
  • How to build an effective environmental testing program
  • Producing reliable testing to detect and control Listeria
  • Sanitation departmental role in prevention, control and mitigation
  • Building a master sanitation schedule
  • Innovative Listeria mitigation programs
  • Gaps in proactive food safety programs
  • Hygienic equipment design

Industry speakers include:

  • John Besser, Ph.D., deputy chief, enteric disease laboratory branch, CDC
  • Gina (Nicholson) Kramer, Savour Food Safety International
  • Dominique Blackman, Realzyme
  • Janet Buffer, The Kroger Company
  • Ken Davenport, Ph.D., 3M Food Safety
  • Bert de Vegt, Micreos Food Safety
  • Joellen Feirtag, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
  • Melinda Hayman, Ph.D., GMA
  • Sanja Illic, Ph.D., Ohio State University
  • Paul Lorcheim, ClorDiSys Solutions
  • Douglas Marshal, Ph.D., Eurofins Scientific
  • Jeff Mitchell, Chemstar
  • Megan Murn, Microbiologics
  • Robin Peterson, Micreos
  • Errol Raghubeer, Ph.D., Avure Technologies

The event takes place at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Workshop hours are Tuesday, May 31 from 11:00 am–6:00 pm and Wednesday, June 1 from 8:30 am–5:00 pm. For more information, visit the Listeria Detection & Control Workshop event website.

Gina Kramer
Food Safety Think Tank

Activate Your Listeria Mitigation and Control Program

By Gina R. Nicholson-Kramer, Jeff Mitchell
No Comments
Gina Kramer

Listeria: It has been in the news and in our food throughout the past year. It has cost companies millions of dollars in recalls, shutdowns and mitigation; it has cost the government thousands of dollars in outbreak investigation, inspection and follow-up; and it has cost millions of dollars in medical bills for victims and for some, it has cost their lives.

I have asked Jeff Mitchell, vice president of food safety at Chemstar, to share his knowledge about Listeria mitigation and control, and to talk about the research that supports the innovative program that Chemstar uses with its customers.

Listeria Mitigation & Control Program

By Jeff Mitchell

Jeff Mitchell, Chemstar
Jeff Mitchell, Vice President of Food Safety, Chemstar

Thus far this year there have been several recalls of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods due to contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Efforts to prevent contamination of food products with Listeria monocytogenes must be conducted at all levels of production. This is a difficult task given the fact that the bacteria is so widespread in the environment.  Focusing efforts in your process where contamination risk is of greatest concern to the consumer is important.  There is solid evidence that commercially prepared foods that have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes has occurred after the food product has been subjected to an initial lethality treatment. The product may be exposed in this area as a result of slicing, peeling, packing, re-bagging, cooling, or other procedures that may expose the product to potential contamination.

Listeria monocytogenes survives extremely well in food processing and retail food preparation environments. It may be introduced into your facility through a variety of routes, including:

  • Raw materials
  • Employees’ shoes or clothes
  • Equipment (boxes, crates, carts)

Controlling traffic flow into critical areas of the process can help reduce the chances of introducing and spreading the organism.

Once Listeria is introduced into the nonsterile environment, retail and factory conditions that promote its growth increase the risk of post-processing contamination. Several factors, including moisture, nutrients, temperature, competitive microflora and pH, affect the growth of Listeria in the food preparation and processing environment.  Moisture is the most crucial factor, as it is essential for microbial growth and is the most easily controlled of the factors.

Listeria tends to form a biofilm to enhance its survival when resident populations become established in the food prep/processing environment. The resident populations that are referred to as “persistent” are not easily eliminated by general cleaning and sanitizing procedures. Biofilm penetration is necessary for removal and inactivation of Listeria. The correct blend of chemical, contact time and agitation will aid in the removal. This combination dissolves the biofilm and the organic material to which it adheres, allowing the sanitizer to inactivate the released, sensitive cells.

 To learn more about Listeria from Gina and Jeff, check out their archived webinar with Food Safety Tech, Preventing Listeria Contamination: A Practical Guide to Food Safety ControlsBiofilm removal is important, because persistent L. monocytogenes can be dispersed from a biofilm into the environment and onto food processing equipment, and non-food contact and food-contact surfaces. Passive dispersal of Listeria can occur by aerosolization from high-pressure hoses or brushing; once aerosolized, Listeria can contaminate other growth niches in the food handling/processing area, eventually contaminating food contact surfaces and food. Another form of passive dispersal is the movement of processing equipment. If a biofilm is present, cells can be released by the movement or vibration of the equipment.

Inactivation of L. monocytogenes in biofilms is an important part of a Listeria control program. Understanding this face prompted our team to perform research with the University of Georgia using a mixed culture biofilm formed by Pseudomonas putida and L. monocytogenes to evaluate the ability of Chemstar’s foaming sanitizer to inactivate L. monocytogenes present in biofilms under realistic use conditions. The results revealed that it provides for a greater than four-log reduction.1

Identifying Listeria in the environment and eliminating the resident populations can reduce the risk of secondary contamination. Once these procedures are established, employee training and environmental monitoring are vital.  An effective Listeria control program requires that employees understand their role in mitigating the spread of Listeria, and management must relay those expectations. Control strategies are not likely to be effective if employees won’t cooperate, or don’t understand what they are expected to do, or why it is important, and that expected procedures or behavior will be monitored.

Reference

  1. Frank, J. and Mitchell, J. (December 3, 2010).  Evaluation of Chemstar foaming sanitizer for inactivating Listeria monocytogene in floor drain biofilms.
Join us for the Listeria Mitigation and Control Workshop at the Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, IL on November 17, 2015. Learn about the Five Key Elements in building an effective Listeria Control Program:

  1. Specific Sanitation Controls for Listeria
  2. Training of Personnel (they need to understand their role in the program)
  3. Traffic Control
  4. Targeted Environmental Monitoring and Testing
  5. Control Water Introduced into the Process Environment

The workshop will be a hands-on approach to learning about Listeria and practical solutions to take back and implement into your company’s sanitation program.