Tag Archives: pathogen detection

Jacob Bowland, Heateflex
In the Food Lab

FSMA to Increase Role for Food Microbiology Testing Laboratories

By Jacob Bowland
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Jacob Bowland, Heateflex

As a result of the finalization of FSMA regulations on September 10, 2015, increasing requirements for procedures, documentation and testing will soon be impacting the food industry. The major effects on the food microbiology testing market will come in the form of an increase in the volume of samples that must be processed in accordance with the new FSMA rules, along with an improved emphasis on accurate and complete record keeping. The goals of FSMA are to create a new safety standard across the entire food chain. Increasing food pathogen testing will minimize possible recalls and the probability that dangerous food outbreaks occur.

Food manufacturers’ testing labs and third-party accredited testing labs can meet the demand for increased testing and improved record keeping in one of two ways: Via facility expansion or via implementing new technologies into the laboratory. While facility expansion might be an ideal long-term solution, it will not address the immediate surge in lab demand brought on by the new FSMA requirements, as it takes time to build new laboratories and hire employees. Implementing new technologies in the lab, then, makes the most sense, and where automation can be introduced into traditionally-manual processes, higher throughput may be realized using existing personnel and facilities.  Automation further removes human error and improves the quality of the test being performed. The challenge for lab managers will be to objectively look at the current production bottlenecks in their testing operations and determine where technology may be introduced to increase throughput.

In addition to mandating additional testing, the FSMA regulations will require improved lab record keeping, as well as a new accreditation process that FDA will implement. The food testing industry faces the same dilemma that the healthcare industry faced some years ago in migrating from manual files to electronic health records.  Lab notebooks have a real purpose in the lab, but their purpose should be more as a backup system to information that is gathered and stored electronically. While Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) have been around for many years, their full potential in pathogen testing has yet to be realized. A properly designed LIMS provides an electronic database that not only aids in the accreditation process, but also allows samples to be traced throughout the testing facility.  This allows positive test results to be screened from false positives or false negatives, and points to which equipment or procedures in the testing process need to be improved upon.  LIMS technology for recording digital information can also trace user, operation time and performance specifications more accurately than lab notebook-based processes.

In summary, many changes are coming to the food industry as a result of increased regulations, presenting exciting opportunities to develop new products and technologies to alleviate the pain points within testing labs.  The industry of food pathogen testing must change alongside the regulatory atmosphere in order to be competitive in a post-FSMA era.

3M Molecular detection assay for Listeria

Molecular Detection Assay for Listeria Promises Faster Results

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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3M Molecular detection assay for Listeria

A molecular detection assay for Listeria monocytogenes has been approved by the AOAC Performance Test Methods

3M Molecular detection assay for Listeria
The new test was developed in response to customer engagement and a desire to work with food processors to protect the world’s food supply, says 3M Food Safety.

(PTM) program. Developed by 3M Food Safety, the assay is based on isothermal DNA amplification and bioluminescence detection technologies. With a streamlined workflow that is 30% faster than the first generation assay, the new test is designed to provide expedited, simple and more accurate real-time pathogen detection.

Obtaining AOAC PTM status involved a thorough independent lab examination of the test method’s ability to accurately detect Listeria monocytogenes within a variety of foods. During the validation study, analyzed food samples included beef hot dogs, queso fresco cheese, vanilla ice cream, 4 % milk fat cottage cheese, 3% chocolate whole milk, romaine lettuce, bagged raw spinach, cold smoked salmon, deli turkey, raw chicken, cantaloupe, and various environmental surfaces (plastic, stainless steel, concrete). Achieving AOAC PTM approval certifies that the test kit is equivalent or better than standard reference methods, according to 3M Food Safety.

Ask the Expert: Looking to Increase Efficiency of Your Pathogen Detection Process?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Pathogen enrichment is a critical part of any microbiological testing workflow.

Pathogen detection – made challenging with the increase in numbers of composite samples that require even larger volumes of media per sample – are time-consuming and involve bulky media handling by laboratory personnel. Not only do these factors make life in the lab more difficult, but also, they increase the risk of introducing contamination. 

The following questions provide insight into more efficient ways to prepare media.

Q: What are some ways to manage the increased media production requirements, and what are some of the bottlenecks in the media kitchen when dealing with composite samples for pathogen testing?

A: Composite samples are larger than traditional food samples and therefore require the addition of more culture media before incubation. Larger volumes of media preparation (i.e. sorting, autoclaving) is one of the largest sources of bottleneck for composite samples for pathogen testing. It’s not unusual for several hundred composite samples to be tested daily on a regular basis – this situation is only magnified when managing composite samples that require up to 15 times more than a traditional sample.

The issue with large volumes of media is that media containers and samples are fairly heavy and cumbersome to move, with equally demanding turnaround time. For these reasons, the entire process must be industrialized to maintain lab productivity.

Choosing a media that is composed of premium raw materials ensures high recovery and growth rates of bacteria, which are essential for the subsequent use of rapid testing methods. Additionally, selecting a media that meets industry performance standards as described in ISO 11133, helps reduce required quality control measures.

Q:  How can I increase my media production without having to scale up my media kitchen to handle the workload?

A:  Merck Millipore’s Readybag® media pouches with granulated culture media enable pathogen testing of composite food without making major changes. Readybag media pouches do not require capital equipment investment and involve less labor than both high efficiency and traditional methods for sterile media production. Use of pre-weighed, gamma-irradiated Readybag pouches eliminate all preparation steps and reduce typical sample preparation and autoclaving time by more than 50 percent. Performance tests confirm that Readybag media provides equivalent results compared to non-irradiated, autoclaved culture media.

A study performed by Cherney Microbiological Services (Green Bay, WI, USA) demonstrated the time, utility and space savings using Readybag granulated enrichment media for composite food samples as compared to both high efficiency and traditional preparation methods using autoclaving. The study examined the labor required, media cost, utility and associated electricity costs for each of the three methods (traditional autoclave, high efficiency and Readybag method).  Observations and measurements were made using laboratory personnel within the normal workflow of Cherney’s laboratory.

Purdue University Wins FDA’s Food Safety Challenge

By Maria Fontanazza
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Today FDA announced the winner of the 2014 Food Safety Challenge. The Purdue University team snagged the $300,000 grand prize for its physical method for concentrating Salmonella to detectable levels via automated microfiltration. The technique can potentially reduce sample preparation time from 24-48 hours to a two- to three-hour timeframe.

Runner-up  Pronucleotein received $100,000 for its portable device that enables rapid pathogen screening via DNA aptamer-magnetic bead sandwich assays.

For more details about the technology, view Food Safety Tech’s coverage: FDA’s Food Safety Challenge a Big Deal for Agency and Industry.

Is Your Company Prepared to Fight Food Fraud and Product Adulteration?

By Maria Fontanazza
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Having the ability to detect and identify contamination and adulteration in product is a top priority for companies, especially when working with foreign suppliers. In a discussion with Food Safety Tech, Craig S. Schwandt, Ph.D., director of industrial services at McCrone Associates, discusses how companies, especially those with limited resources, can use technologies to improve contamination detection to be ahead of the FSMA implementation curve.

Food Safety Tech: From your perspective, what key elements of FSMA will have a big impact on manufacturers and processors?

Craig Schwandt: For U.S. manufacturers, more and more of their ingredients are coming from foreign countries. [Companies] are responsible for reporting to FDA what measures they have taken to assure food safety in all aspects. Participating in the Foreign Supplier Verification Program will be critical to [their awareness of] whether their foreign suppliers are meeting those obligations. That critical element hasn’t been realized yet.

FST: Is navigating the foreign supplier relationship more of a challenge for smaller businesses versus larger companies?

Schwandt: Global companies have the resources to address contamination concerns and can monitor the processing that takes place in foreign countries. It’s the small companies that don’t have the financial resources to be present in foreign countries. There will be many more issues for them to address—are they really receiving product that they’re paying for? Is the testing that is being conducted in foreign countries really meeting the requirements.

FST: What steps can small companies take to ensure they have testing programs in place to meet requirements?

Schwandt: This ties in with the difference between testing and investigational analysis. Testing involves identification methods that are done to ascertain what is present—it might be an elemental concentration basis or an organic molecule basis—but they’re bulk analysis that determines whether the product is meeting the expected composition.

Then there might be components for which there are actionable levels, if the concentration exceeds actionable levels. But with bulk analysis testing methods, they only understand that they have a component in their product that exceeds an action level, and those methods don’t really specify where that component might be introduced into the product. This is where microscopy-based investigational analysis can assist smaller companies with understanding at what point the contaminant might have been introduced into the product. It can be isolated in individual particles, establishing a forensic pathway for stage of the process in which the contaminant might have been introduced.

FST: Can you expand on the technologies and methods that can be used to detect fraud or adulterated product?

Schwandt: In the case of intentional adulteration and fraud, current technologies include ultrahigh pressure liquid chromatography, liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry, and the food industry is doing a great job of using them.

In the case of intentional adulteration or fraud, the level of adulteration has to be fairly high, otherwise there isn’t an economic incentive to adulterate it. A great example is with pomegranate juice—if you’re going to intentionally adulterate pomegranate juice with grape juice to cut it down, a fairly large percentage of the final juice will be grape juice in order to make that intentional adulteration process economically motivating. It’s not really so difficult to identify it with [current] technologies.

Where the technologies need to be improved is in instances in which there might be more unintentional adulteration or contamination at trace levels:

  • When there are solid phase particulate contaminants, use of microscopy-based methods (which isn’t new technology) where you isolate the contaminant particles of interest; they occur at trace level. Because we isolate them from the matrix, we can analyze them and [detect] if there were metal particles from processing machinery; we can identify them to the alloy level and give clients a way to trace back to what part in the process stream those particles may have originated.
  • Likewise, Liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, especially for pesticide residue analysis, will be increasingly more valuable using the QuEChERS program FDA has outlined for quick, safe, reliable and easy analysis of trace contaminants in food products.

FST: What factors are contributing to under-use of microscopy-based methods?

Schwandt: I think the expensive–instrument vendors would like you believe it is as simple as pushing a button to receive your complete quantitative answer. In many cases, the instruments, even though they might be designed with the best intentions, actually do require expert chemists to use them for complete success. There’s a push on the part of instrument manufacturers to provide instrumentation that they sell as providing the complete answer. And there’s a willingness in the food industry to believe it would be as simple as putting a less-skilled person in front of the instrument to run the analysis, push the button, and get the answer, as opposed to hiring an analyst with a lot of expertise.

FST: What industry partnerships/collaborations are essential in testing and analysis?

Schwandt: The partnerships are productive in this area when they’re between production and quality assurance branches of companies and third-party laboratories that can offer niche solutions and third-party verification.

Enrichment Time for Salmonella

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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In less than two weeks, FDA is holding a Demo Day at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in Maryland. The agency will be awarding $500,000 to the team that can develop a technique or technology that creates “significant improvements” in the speed at which FDA can detect Salmonella in fresh, minimally processed produce.

A few months ago, Capt. Palmer Orlandi, Ph.D., senior science advisor at FDA’s Office of Veterinary Medicine, describes exactly why FDA is offering such a hefty prize. It can take between three and five days to detect Salmonella in product, and with full serotyping, it can take as long as two to three weeks to obtain results.

Risk Assessment in Pathogen Testing Methods

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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A Certificate of Analysis (COA) provides a level of confidence in the quality and purity of its product. Companies should take this document a step further and assess what the results mean. Using Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) can help a company identify, quantify and assess risks associated with pathogen detection methods, giving them the background information they need to trust the results. FMEA can help companies understand the differences between testing methods by individually identifying the risks associated with each method on its own. Maureen Harte, President and CEO at HartePro Consulting, and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, talks about the challenges a company faces when assessing results on a Certificate of Analysis and the role of FMEA.