Tag Archives: pathogens

Listeria
From the Editor’s Desk

Food Safety Tech Hazards Series Expands to In-Person Events in 2023

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Listeria

For the past two years, Food Safety Tech, creator of the annual Food Safety Consortium conference, has been supporting FSQA professionals through its virtual Food Safety Tech Hazards Series.

Focused on the four core areas of food safety: detection, mitigation, control and regulation of risk, the series has addressed pathogens, pest control, and physical and chemical hazards facing the food industry.

The virtual conferences, which have attracted thousands of attendees, provide information on ongoing and emerging risks for both new and seasoned FSQA professionals, featuring speakers from industry, regulatory agencies and standards bodies.

In 2023, we are building on the popularity and success of these virtual events by expanding the Food Safety Tech Hazards Series to include two in-person events coming this spring and fall.

In 2022, salmonella– and listeria-related cases represented 37.4% of food and beverage product recalls, an uptick from 33.3% in 2021. “Food safety hazards continue to be a challenge for all aspects of the food industry from farm to fork.” said Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing Company, publisher of Food Safety Tech and director of the Food Safety Consortium conference. “The detection, mitigation and control of food safety hazards issues must be discussed among peers and best practices must be shared, something you can’t do virtually. The human connection is so important for conference attendees. Whether it’s a random connection over lunch, a one-on-one question with a speaker after a presentation or a seat next to a new friend in a learning session—connecting with others is what makes events so valuable. This year’s in-person events are designed to help facilitate this much needed critical thinking and sharing of best practices.”

“We look forward to bringing the Food Safety Tech Hazards series to an in-person audience in 2023,” said Inga Hansen, editor of Food Safety Tech. “This format will complement our virtual series and allow for the live discussion and networking that can only be achieved in person.”

Stay tuned for upcoming dates and registration.

 

WHO logo

WHO Convenes Panel to Identify Priority Pathogens for Research and Oversight

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it is launching a global scientific process to update the list of priority pathogens to guide global investment, research and development of vaccines, tests and treatments.

The process began on November 18 with a meeting of more than 300 scientists who will consider the evidence on over 25 virus families and bacteria, as well as “Disease X.” Disease X is included to indicate an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic. The experts will recommend a list of priority pathogens that need further research and investment. The process will include both scientific and public health criteria, as well as criteria related to socioeconomic impact, access, and equity.

The first priority pathogen list was published in 2017 and the last prioritization exercise was done in 2018. The current list includes COVID-19, Crimean-Cong hemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah and henipaviral diseases, Rift Valley fever, Zika and Disease X.

“Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for a fast and effective epidemic and pandemic response. Without significant R&D investments prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to have safe and effective vaccines developed in record time,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.

For those pathogens identified as priority, the WHO R&D Blueprint for epidemics develops R&D roadmaps, which lay out knowledge gaps and research priorities. Efforts are also made to map, compile and facilitate clinical trials to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests. Complimentary efforts—such as to strengthen regulatory and ethics oversight—are also considered.

“This list of priority pathogens has become a reference point for the research community on where to focus energies to manage the next threat,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist. “It is developed together with experts in the field and is the agreed direction for where we—as a global research community—need to invest energy and funds to develop tests, treatments and vaccines. We thank our donors like the U.S. government, our partners, and the scientists who work with WHO to make this possible.”

The revised list is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2023.

Listeria

Listeria Outbreak Response: Actions To Take Now

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Listeria

The CDC is currently investigating two Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks. An outbreak linked to deli meats and cheeses has led to 16 illnesses, 13 hospitalizations and one death. A multistate outbreak related to Brie and Camembert soft cheese products announced in September had led to six illnesses and five hospitalizations to date and a widespread product recall.

The CDC notes that it is difficult for investigators to identify a single food as the source of outbreaks linked to deli meats and cheeses, because Listeria spreads easily between food and the deli environment and can persist for a long time in deli display cases and on equipment.

We spoke with Chip Manuel, Ph.D., Food Safety Science Advisor at GOJO about steps retail food establishments should be taking now to reduce the risk of Listeria contamination in their facilities.

With the multi-state Listeria outbreak happening in delis, what should retail delis and deli departments be doing to reduce the potential spread of Listeria until a specific food is identified?

Manuel: Since Listeria is a hardy bacteria that thrives in many food products and conditions, it’s vital that food retailers and operators not only understand the conditions in which Listeria can persist but also ensure that conditions are kept which help to minimize its growth. These best practices include ensuring that proper hot/cold temperatures for holding food are maintained; cleaning and sanitizing refrigerators, display cases and frequently used kitchen equipment (especially deli slicers!); and maintaining the sanitary conditions of your establishment.

Listeria can be found in various nooks and crannies throughout a facility, including those hard-to-reach equipment parts, such as blades, cart wheels, and even grease catches and drains. Lack of frequent sanitation of these locations can increase the risk of Listeria cross-contaminating food contact surfaces in these settings. Therefore, it is vital to:

  • Evaluate the conditions of your facility, equipment and tools. Are there issues with standing water or cracked tiles? These are notorious for harboring Listeria biofilms and need to be replaced and repaired. Similarly, are your cleaning tools in good condition without cracks? If not, consider replacing these. Research has shown that cleaning tools in poor condition, especially squeegees, can become a source of contamination.
  • Ensure your sanitation program is up to speed. First, ensure you are choosing products that are effective against Listeria. Make sure you give your employees the time needed to clean and sanitize equipment effectively, especially larger pieces of equipment such as deli slicers. Make sure they have the tools and knowledge required to clean and sanitize these pieces of equipment, including specifically in nooks and crannies where Listeria can hide.
  • Ensure that deli slicers are maintained properly. Repair and/or replace any components of slicers that are in disrepair, as these can become harborage sites for Listeria. Ensure deli slicers are completely broken down for cleaning and sanitization as required by the local regulatory authority (usually every four hours for deli slicers operating at room temperature).
  • Minimize the use of high-pressure hoses within a deli environment. Research has shown these tools can spread Listeria throughout a facility (for example, if sprayed directly into a contaminated drain).
  • Check that display, storage and refrigerator or cooler cases are set to an internal temperature of 41˚F or lower while ensuring adequate airflow.
  • Ensure raw and ready-to-eat products are stored in separate areas. RTE products can become contaminated if stored under raw products (due to dripping, etc.)

Looking at the soft cheese outbreak, what can retail food environments do to reduce the risk of distributing contaminated product to consumers and identify and respond to potential Listeria contamination in these higher-risk cheese products?

Having a supplier verification program and managing incoming ingredients with approved suppliers and approved sources is critical—particularly for soft cheeses which are at higher risk for contamination. Purchase solely from approved sources with food safety programs in place. Ensure that food safety is always part of your supplier specifications and requirements, and work with your suppliers to understand their pathogen prevention and environmental programs. If possible, visit their facilities to get a sense for how well their food safety program is operating.

Additional resources:

Margaret Vieth

Optimizing Environmental Monitoring Programs

By Margaret Vieth
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Margaret Vieth

The food manufacturing industry has seen a shift toward increased environmental monitoring testing to help mitigate risks in food processing. But it can be difficult for producers to build out environmental monitoring programs due to the lack of detailed regulatory guidance, particularly when looking at how many samples to collect and from which locations or surfaces they should be collected.

Below are five tips to help food manufacturers build more efficient and effective environmental monitoring programs.

1. There Is No “One Size Fits All” Approach to Environmental Monitoring

A successful environmental monitoring program is one that’s customized for each facility. When creating a program or evaluating an existing program, it is important to organize a cross-functional team that includes those who are most familiar with your products and processes. This cross-functional team can help determine critical program details such as determining from which areas samples will be collected and the frequency of sample collection.

One approach is to establish a comprehensive list of every site that will be tested over time, then evaluate how often those areas should be swabbed using a risk-based approach. A risk-based approach involves determining which sites within a manufacturing plant are the highest risk and which are the lowest risk, and then testing the highest risk sites more often and the lower risk sites less often.

Risk level is based on: the proximity of the test point to the food contact surface; how difficult the area or surface is to clean or sanitize; and/or historical data and knowledge of the facility and products. The goal is to collect data from all relevant areas in the plant over time, while spending the most time on those that are highest risk.

2. You Can’t Detect What You Don’t Collect

While it seems counterintuitive, food manufacturers should be seeking positive results when conducting environmental monitoring testing. It’s important to remember that all environments can and most likely will become contaminated with a pathogen at some point in time. If an environmental monitoring program does not detect a positive result for a common environmental contaminate throughout the course of a year, it may indicate that the right areas are not being swabbed or that they are not being swabbed well enough.

When environmental monitoring programs uncover contaminated areas through positive results, it offers the opportunity for producers to implement corrective and preventative actions to improve their programs long term. A food processor’s food safety program can be seen as stronger and more reliable when the goal is to find and address the positive.

3. Use the Right Tools

A major factor in the success of environmental monitoring testing lies in the types of tools being used to collect the samples and the techniques used to collect them. When investigating tools for an environmental monitoring program, there are two key traits to keep in mind. First, it is important to ensure a collection device uses a neutralizing buffer that is effective against the sanitizers in the environment. The collection buffer should keep organisms alive long enough to run an accurate test, while also having a wide enough capacity to neutralize the sanitizer on the surface being sampled. This is an especially important consideration in processing environments that are continuously experiencing sanitizer changeovers.

Second, collection tools need to effectively access and collect organisms from the surface of the sample area. Biofilms—protective barriers of bacteria where pathogens or other organisms can thrive—are a big challenge when collecting samples. If the collection devices are not well suited to collecting or penetrating biofilms, there is a risk that the biofilm as well as all the living organisms and potential pathogens within the biofilm are not collected. Using devices that have scrub dot technology allows producers to collect the biofilm itself, creating a better sample for an even stronger environmental monitoring program.

4. Don’t Forget to Re-evaluate

To ensure you are getting the most out of your environmental monitoring program, conduct regular re-evaluations of the program. Periodic reviews are important as environmental factors are always changing. In a single year, food manufacturers may introduce new employees, new equipment, new processes, new products and new vendors. All these factors can have an impact on the quality and hygiene of the environment and the products you produce. Therefore, environmental monitoring programs should be viewed as a continuous improvement program rather than something that’s set up once and left alone.

5. Take Advantage of Education and Training Resources

Providing proper training and education for the entire environmental monitoring program team can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of the program. There are numerous educational resources available for environmental monitoring program teams. These should be utilized as you build and assess your protocols and provided to new team members. Involve the sample collection team in the process of creating the program and ensure the program protocols are readily available and understood by all team members.

Creating robust programs to help mitigate food safety risks, such as those found within a manufacturing facility’s environment, is critical to protecting consumers and your company. Despite a lack of detailed regulations around environmental monitoring program development, food manufacturers can create successful programs by customizing their protocols to their facilities, conducting routine evaluations, searching for positives, utilizing proper collection tools and providing proper training and education. Sources of potential contamination are numerous, but a strong environmental monitoring program can help find them.

Food prep gloves

Mitigating Listeria Monocytogenes Risks in the Retail Food Environment

Food prep gloves

Listeria monocytogenes is a ubiquitous pathogen with a high mortality rate that can become persistent in the retail food environment, says Janet Buffer, MPH, of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, Ohio State University. During her presentation “Listeria monocytogenes and sanitation in the retail environment,” at the “Food Safety Hazards Series” virtual event, she discussed areas in retail food service environments most likely to harbor the pathogen as well as the best-proven methods to reduce the prevalence of listeria in your facility.

View the full “Food Safety Tech Hazards Series: Listeria” virtual conference on demand.

Areas that are more likely to harbor listeria monocytogenes in the retail food environment include:

  • Cracks and crevices in the floor
  • The floor/wall juncture, especially under sinks
  • On touchpoints of cooler handles and deli slicers
  • In front of deep fryers
  • In front of deli slicers and on slicer blades
  • Drains
  • Sink interiors
  • Areas where raw chicken is stored or transported

Listeria monocytogenes is hardy. It tolerates salt, grows in cold environments and is moderately resistant to acids,” said Buffer. “It is also ubiquitous. We find it in soil, water, silage, manure and sewage. We bring it in on our shoes. We can carry it on our clothes, and it can become a persistent pathogen in our retail spaces.”

A recent study by Briana C. Britton, et al, published in Food Control Journal, identified the most effective sanitation and customer service strategies correlated with lower listeria prevalence in retail delicatessens. These include:

  • When the deli is cleaned two-to-three hours/day
  • Changing gloves after touching nonfood surfaces
  • Keeping sanitation records
  • Using foam to clean and sanitize

“All chemicals work and all work very well,” said Buffer. “But, they must be used at the correct concentrations and they will require some elbow grease.”

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.

CDC, FDA, USDA logos

NARMS Publishes 2019 Report on Antimicrobial Resistance Trends in Pathogens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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CDC, FDA, USDA logos

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) has published its 2019 Integrated Report Summary, which reviews antimicrobial resistance trends in Salmonella, Campylobacter, generic E. coli, and Enterococcus. The report also discusses genomic information for Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli in retail meat and food producing animals.

NARMS is a partnership between FDA, CDC, USDA’s FSIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service, and other state and local public health departments and federal agencies. The national surveillance in the report helps all public health partners identify new types and patterns of resistance and changes over time.

“FSIS and the CDC use NARMS information on a case-by-case basis to investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. FDA routinely uses NARMS data in its regulatory review and approval of new animal antimicrobial drugs, and to develop and update policies on the judicious use of antimicrobial in animals. NARMS findings help public health partners continually assess the nature and magnitude of bacterial antibiotic resistance at different points along the farm-to-fork continuum.” – USDA

The report includes a new way to calculate multidrug resistance (MDR), which means a resistance to three or more antimicrobial drug classes. The method is supposed to provide more consistency to the NARMS year-to-year MDR trend analysis and comparisons.

The Integrated Report Summary is available on FDA’s website.

FDA

Highlights of FDA’s 2021 Achievements in Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

At the end of his reflection on FDA’s 2021 accomplishments in the food realm, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas stated that he believes collaboration will enable industry to “bend the curve of foodborne illnesses in this decade”. It would be a significant milestone, and in his latest FDA Voices blog, Yiannas reviewed a host of FDA achievements that bring his statement much closer to a reality:

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock gives of full report on the agency’s work in the “FDA 2021 Year in Review: Working For You”.

Compare this year’s review with that of 2020, where Yiannas reflected on the agency’s Food Program achievements during the first year of the pandemic and the 10-year anniversary of FSMA.

CDC, FDA, USDA logos

IFSAC to Continue Focus on Finding Sources of Foodborne Illnesses

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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CDC, FDA, USDA logos

The Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) has published its 2022–2023 Interim Strategic Plan, placing continued emphasis on foodborne illness source attribution for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter. Over the next year, IFSAC will address several short-term goals surrounding improvement of methods to evaluate and identify foodborne illness source attribution through the use of outbreak and non-outbreak-associated disease data, and continued collaboration with external partners in an effort to boost data access and capabilities. The group will be targeting several efforts in the coming year, including:

  • Analysis of trends related to foodborne disease outbreak-associated illnesses over the past two decades, with a subsequent peer-reviewed journal article that reveals results.
  • Development and improvement of machine-learning methods used to predict food sources of illnesses that have an unknown source. WGS will be used to compare Salmonella isolates of known and unknown sources.
  • Collaboration with FoodNet when assessing key food sources for sporadic Salmonella Enteritidis and Campylobacter illnesses. The group will develop case-control studies using specific FoodNet data.

Formed in 2011, IFSAC is a partnership between FDA, FSIS and the CDC that seeks to strengthen federal interagency efforts and maximize use of food safety data collection, analysis and use. During 2022–2023, IFSAC will publish its yearly reports on foodborne illness source attribution for the previously mentioned priority pathogens.