Tag Archives: salmonella

Tyler Williams
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A Nugget of Welcome News: USDA Adds Salmonella as a Chicken Adulterant

By Tyler Williams
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Tyler Williams

Chicken producers and processors must always pay close attention to listeria and E. coli. Their regulated to-market protocols incorporate intense testing and cleaning standards that help ensure the people who buy chicken sandwiches at fast casual restaurants, chicken fingers at sporting arenas and trays of fresh chicken legs at supermarkets don’t get sick.

The companies stay on top of listeria and E. coli because the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has considered them “adulterants,” or substances that should not be found in meat products, for decades. The federal agency banned listeria in 1987, and in 1994 listed E. coli as an adulterant in the wake of an E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants that sickened 700 people in four states, and led to 171 hospitalizations and four deaths.

All along, however, another prominent bacteria, Salmonella, remained unregulated, despite its proclivity for making people ill—more than a 1.3 million cases of salmonellosis appear in the U.S. every year, leading to about 26,500 hospitalizations and roughly 400 deaths. It is the No. 1 cause for foodborne illness in the U.S., and most cases stem from chicken products.

But earlier this year the USDA announced that it now plans to consider Salmonella an adulterant in some chicken products. The matter is out for public comment now; if the USDA doesn’t change its clear intention to regulate Salmonella, federal food inspectors soon will be testing for it in select chicken products.

The chicken industry opposes the measure. In a news release issued shortly after the FSIS’ August announcement, the National Chicken Council (NCC) pointed toward the 1957 Poultry Products Inspection Act, which did not include Salmonella as an adulterant, as a set of standards worth upholding today.

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Well, a lot has changed in industrial agriculture during the past 65 years, and that includes a dramatic expansion of chicken farming and consumption across the country. In the 1950s, the average American ate about 16 pounds of chicken a year, compared to 56 pounds of beef and 50 pounds of pork. But by this year, Americans were eating close to 112 pounds of chicken a year, along with 56 pounds of beef and 50 pounds of pork. In terms of meat consumption, chicken now rules the roost. Regulating it might not have been necessary back when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. But today I believe it most definitely is.

As a professional in the food safety industry, I champion the FSIS’ decision. It’s about time the agency added Salmonella to its list of adulterants; the bacteria causes far too much illness and death in the U.S. every year. Many of those cases could have been prevented through regulatory oversight.

Addressing Poultry Industry Concerns

It is true, as opponents of the proposed regulation argue, that Salmonella doesn’t always emerge in the processing plant; humans can inadvertently introduce the bacteria in their own kitchens. Why, the industry asks, should it be penalized for conditions outside of its control? In addition, proper cooking methods will kill Salmonella. If people don’t follow cooking directions on the packages of chicken they buy, and get sick from Salmonella as a result, the chicken industry believes it should not be held accountable.

On the first issue, it is unlikely that cases revolving around individual consumers introducing Salmonella to their chicken products would ever lead to penalties. Federal regulators scrutinize public health data for clusters of outbreaks, which often point toward entire product lines being infected with bacteria; isolated one-off cases, many of which indeed could be the result of human error, do not concern them.

For the second point, yes, people should read labels and closely follow cooking directions. But in my opinion, that is irrelevant; dangerous levels of Salmonella simply should not dwell in foods, and it’s the job of regulators to make sure food is safe.

Toy manufacturers, for example, must eliminate choking hazards from products designed for kids under 3 years, thanks to federal regulations. It shouldn’t be up to parents to constantly monitor their toddlers while they play with toys, to ensure they don’t gag on something potentially dangerous found on the stuffed giraffe.

Should the rule become policy, the FSIS will focus on just one category: stuffed, breaded and raw chicken products. These products, including dishes like chicken Kiev and chicken cordon bleu, often are heat-treated to set the batter or breading, but are not fully cooked. They have been associated with 14 outbreaks and about 200 illnesses since 1998.

This represents a solid start. Next, I’d like to see the FSIS pursue regulating Salmonella in other chicken products. Even if the agency doesn’t, however, many processors will have to implement new practices and testing procedures for all of their products anyway, as in many cases it won’t make sense to just incorporate new protocols within a few discrete product lines. Among other things, I would anticipate boosted commitments among producers and processors to cleaning and sanitation processes, environmental monitoring (probably the most important pursuit) and overall facility food safety measures.

Will this action by the FSIS completely eliminate Salmonella from the targeted products? Absolutely not. The rule sets a maximum threshold for Salmonella in the food the agency tests; in many cases, chicken products that contain negligible amounts of the bacteria will still make it to market. It’s just products containing dangerous amounts of Salmonella that will be subject to penalties.

Food safety serves as one of the foundations of a healthy society. It also reinforces and bolsters public trust in the products consumers buy, which nurtures and strengthens the entire food industry. With this proposed Salmonella rule by the USDA, the U.S. takes another important step toward ensuring the health of its citizens, and further enhancing consumer trust in the chicken products they buy.

Cantaloupe

Adapted QRA Model with Epidemic Curve Enhances Root Cause Analysis

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Cantaloupe

A new Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) model using epidemic curve (EC) prediction (QRA-EC) could become a valuable new tool in root cause analyses of foodborne illness outbreaks. Researchers with the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition developed a QRA-EC model and evaluated it in a case study of a 2019 multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to melons. The study was published in Risk Analysis.

Amir Mokhtari, et al, modified the traditional QRA model to track illness timing (epidemic curves). They then compared the predicted number of illnesses and timing of illnesses identified by their model—the FDA-Melon QRA-EC—with the 2019 Salmonella melon outbreak epidemic curve.

The authors explain that QRA models are traditionally used to predict the number of illnesses associated with given food-pathogen pairs and to simulate previous foodborne illness outbreaks by comparing model estimates with observed outbreak size. The QRA-EC model extends that framework to include prediction on the timeline of illnesses associated with consumption of contaminated food products.

“This additional feature yields two-dimensional risk predictions that provide investigators with a more nuanced quantitative evaluation of potential/hypothesized illness outbreak root cause, as the shape and/or span of epidemic curves can give clues about potential sources and/or patterns of spread for an outbreak,” the authors wrote.

They found that contamination niches on the equipment were the most likely cause of the 2019 outbreak, as illnesses were linked to one processor of fresh-cut melons, while the contaminated melons (linked back to one supplier) had been sent to several processing facilities.

“Compared to the efficiency of whole melon washing, proper sanitation of contamination niches had a more pronounced impact on the predicted epidemic curves,” the authors wrote. Furthermore, the model and case study found that risk was greater when food was exposed to contamination niches on the assembly line versus in scrubbers and bins, likely due to the larger surface area of the assembly line and the potential for several contamination niches along the line.

“Using an Agent-Based Modeling approach, FDA Melon QRA-EC explicitly tracked the temporal and spatial movement of contaminated melons throughout the supply chain, which allowed us to predict both the total number and timeline of illnesses for various scenarios, which enabled us to identify conditions that can lead to an outbreak of certain magnitude and with a certain span of the epidemic curve,” the authors concluded.

While this particular model was developed specifically for Salmonella outbreaks linked to melons, the authors note that their model can be adapted for other food-pathogen pairings.

 

 

chicken, beef, dairy, lettuce

Foodborne Illness Report Highlights High-Risk Food Categories

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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chicken, beef, dairy, lettuce

This month, the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration’s (IFSAC) released it newest annual report , “Foodborne illness source attribution estimates for 2020 for SalmonellaEscherichia coli O157, and Listeria monocytogenes using multi-year outbreak surveillance data, United States.” IFSAC is a collaboration between the CDC, FDA and USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The report was developed to help shape the priorities of the FDA, inform the creation of targeted interventions to reduce foodborne illnesses caused by these pathogens, inform stakeholders and improve regulatory agency’s to assess whether prevention measures are working.

The report identified 3,749 outbreaks that occurred from 1998 through 2020 and were confirmed or suspected to be caused by Salmonella, E. coli O157, or Listeria, including 192 outbreaks that were confirmed or suspected to be caused by multiple pathogens or serotypes.

The IFSAC excluded 96 of these outbreaks according to its pathogen-exclusion criteria, leaving 3,653 outbreaks. The agency further excluded 1,524 outbreaks without a confirmed or suspected implicated food, 836 outbreaks for which the food vehicle could not be assigned to one of the 17 food categories, and six that occurred in a U.S. territory.

The resulting dataset for the report included 1,287 outbreaks in which the confirmed or suspected implicated food or foods could be assigned to a single food category. These included 960 caused or suspected to be caused by Salmonella, 272 by E. coli O157 and 55 by Listeria. Outbreaks from 2016 through 2020 provide 71% of model-estimated illnesses used to calculate attribution for Salmonella, 67% for E. coli O157 and 62% for Listeria.

Salmonella illnesses came from a wide variety of foods, with more than 75% of illnesses attributed to seven food categories: Chicken, Fruits, Pork, Seeded Vegetables (such as tomatoes), Other Produce (such as fungi, herbs, nuts, and root vegetables), Beef and Turkey.

More than 80% of E. coli O157 illnesses were linked to Vegetable Row Crops (such as leafy greens) and Beef.

More than 75% of Listeria monocytogenes illnesses were linked to Dairy products, Fruits and Vegetable Row Crops, though the IFSAC noted that “the rarity of Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks makes these estimates less reliable than those for other pathogens.”

Attribution estimates for Campylobacter outbreaks were not included in this year’s report, though they have been included in the past. IFSAC said that this was “due to continued concerns about the limitations of using outbreak data to attribute Campylobacter illnesses to sources … these concerns are largely due to the outsized influence of outbreaks in certain foods that pose a high individual risk for Campylobacter infection but do not represent the risk to the general population.” For example, 91% of reported Campylobacter outbreaks related to dairy products were associated with unpasteurized milk, while 57% majority of chicken-related outbreaks were due to chicken liver products, which are not widely consumed.

USDA Logo

USDA FSIS Seeks Input on Exploratory and Special Program Poultry Sampling

USDA Logo

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it is preparing to publish the next establishment-specific dataset on exploratory and special program poultry sampling in January 2023.

Prior to publishing the dataset, FSIS is seeking comments on a sample dataset and data documentation. Comments can be submitted until December 22, 2022. The sample dataset and corresponding data documentation include sampling results of FSIS’ non-regulatory poultry microbiological sampling projects, including poultry establishments with a very low volume of production (≤ 1,000 lbs/day), religious-exempt chicken carcasses, comminuted or mechanically separated poultry and chicken quarter or half-carcasses and chicken parts. This dataset also includes data associated with special programs, such as a response to an outbreak or testing a new sampling methodology.

Establishment-specific datasets were first released in 2016 as announced in the July 14, 2016, Federal Register

Six weeks before the first publication, FSIS will share the data via email with establishments. After the first publication, product type information from the Exploratory Sampling for Chicken Parts – Quarter and Half Carcasses project will continue to be emailed to applicable establishments six weeks before each publication. Except for results from the Exploratory Sampling for Chicken Parts – Quarter and Half Carcasses project, establishments can access their data using the “Industry Sampling Results for Primary Establishment Number Detailed” report within the Public Health Information System (PHIS).

To remain consistent with the other establishment-specific datasets, the first datasets will be posted with an archive and current file. The archive file will contain data through fiscal year (FY) 2021; the current file will contain FY2022 data. Both the archive and current files are planned to publish on January 27, 2023. Subsequent postings will follow the regular posting schedule for establishment-specific datasets. New datasets are released the first Friday of the next quarter with a quarter lag, meaning data for FY2023 Q1 (December 2022) are scheduled to be released on April 7, 2023, data for FY2023 Q2 (March 2023) are scheduled to be released July 7, 2023, and so forth. Existing datasets will be updated quarterly.

To comment on sample dataset and data documentation, visit Regulations.gov and use Docket FSIS-2014-0032.

Salmonella

National Advisory Committee Announces Public Meeting to Discuss Actions on Cronobacter, Cyclospora and Salmonella

Salmonella

The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) will hold a virtual public meeting on November 15 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm ET to discuss work being advanced by the FDA on Cronobacter spp. in powdered infant formula. The Committee will also discuss updates under the Cyclospora cayetanensis subcommittee and vote on adopting the report: “Enhancing Salmonella Control in Poultry Products.”

NACMCF is an advisory committee, established by the USDA, that provides impartial, scientific advice and/or peer reviews to federal food safety agencies for use in the development of an integrated national food safety systems approach.

The meeting is intended to help the committee gain scientific insight regarding Cronobacter infections, including recommendations for how public health authorities can better protect public health, as well as recommendations for food safety management practices that the food industry can implement to enhance the safety of powdered infant formula.

The meeting will be held virtually using Zoom. Attendees must pre-register to receive a join link, dial-in number, access code and unique Attendee ID. Attendees who would like to deliver comments during the meeting must register by November 8, 2022. Attendees who do not plan to speak at the public meeting may register at any time up to the day of the meeting. The meeting agenda is available on the FSIS events page.

 

Raw chicken breast

USDA Charts Regulatory Path To Reduce Poultry-Linked Salmonella Infections

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Raw chicken breast

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released a proposed regulatory framework to control Salmonella contamination in poultry products.

In its announcement, the USDA noted that the proposed framework follows months of information-gathering and discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, researchers and scientists. It consists of three key components:

  • Requiring that incoming flocks be tested for Salmonella before entering an establishment
  • Enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification
  • Implementing an enforceable final product standard.

“We know that Salmonella in poultry is a complex problem with no single solution,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary Sandra Eskin. “However, we have identified a series of strategic actions FSIS could take that are likely to drive down Salmonella infections linked to poultry products consumption, and we are presenting those in this proposed framework.”

A copy of the proposed framework, which also addresses cross-cutting issues of testing for Salmonella, the impact on small and very small establishments and data sharing, is available online here.

Representatives from industry, consumer groups and other stakeholders are invited to provide input on the proposed regulatory framework by participating in a virtual public meeting November 3 from 10am to 4pm ET via Zoom. To view the agenda and to register to attend, visit the Meetings and Events page on the FSIS website.

Stakeholders can also submit written comments at www.regulations.gov.

Consumer groups are applauding the proposed framework. “This is a historic first step toward final product standards that are science-based, risk-based, enforceable, and effective at protecting our vulnerable loved ones,” said Amanda Craten, board member of STOP Foodborne Illness. “As a parent of a child who suffered from Salmonella illness and is left with permanent injury, I have advocated and engaged in the process to modernize poultry standards to ensure no child has to experience the devastation of a preventable, virulent Salmonella illness. I’m thankful that USDA is making the prevention of illnesses like my son Noah’s a priority.”

Dr. Craig Hedberg, a professor at University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Co-Director of the Minnesota Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, agrees that this framework “is an important step towards moving away from hazard-based regulation toward risk-based regulation. Focusing on levels of Salmonella and highly virulent strains of Salmonella rather than just the presence or absence of Salmonella should reduce the number of illnesses associated with poultry.”

The USDA FSIS continues to gather scientific evidence relevant to the approaches presented in the proposed framework.

 

John Silliker

Mérieux NutriSciences Honors Founder with Silliker Food Science Center

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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John Silliker

Mérieux NutriSciences, which offers analytical and product development solutions to prevent health risks related to the food, beverage and nutraceutical industries, has renamed its food research center the Silliker Food Science Center in honor of the company’s founder, Dr. John H. Silliker.

When Dr. Silliker founded his first laboratory in 1967, he became a leading figure in the fight against Salmonella and for food safety. He used science to develop practical and innovative solutions to answer food industry challenges. His work—as well as his philosophy of inspire, discover and innovate—continues to guide Mérieux NutriSciences’s approach as the company celebrates its 55th anniversary.

The company shared that the Silliker Food Science Center will continue Dr. Silliker’s mission by embracing his core philosophy to:

Inspire: Dr. Silliker has inspired generations of scientists. It’s with this inspiration that the center’s team stands ready to continue the tradition of developing science and lead contract research projects for the food industry.

Discover: Dr. Silliker’s fundamental principle was to provide a place to go when you need to know. This drive the center’s scientists to work alongside food companies to solve their unique challenges with shelf life extension, product integrity and method applicability.

Innovate: Dr. Silliker continually pushed the boundaries of innovation which is continued today by the scientists at the Silliker Food Science Center, which helps to:

  • Conduct critical investigations and root cause analysis through advanced technologies
  • Understand product defect
  • Validate food manufacturing process
  • Support product development and improve product shelf life
  • Ensure matrix is fit for analytical method

 

Lettuce

FDA Announces New Efforts to Enhance the Safety of Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Lettuce

In light of the recent E. coli outbreak that has been linked to romaine lettuce, the FDA announced that it will begin targeted sampling of leafy greens grown on farms and ranches during the fall 2022 harvest season in the Salinas Valley region of California. In addition, the agency is releasing results from a 2021 sampling assignment and providing an update on other work happening under the Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan (LGAP).

The LGAP sampling efforts seek to detect and prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers and help leafy greens growers and processors identify practices or conditions that may present microbial risks so they can strengthen the microbiological safety of their operations.

During the fall 2022 harvest season the FDA plans to collect about 240 lettuce samples at farms/ranches in the Salinas Valley that were identified by traceback investigations in recent years as being potentially associated with a foodborne illness outbreak in which lettuce or leafy greens were the likely or suspect food vehicle.

The FDA notes that it also may collect environmental samples such as water, soil and scat, as appropriate, based on observations made at the time of sampling and a farm/ranch’s past inspection history. All samples will be tested for Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7. The sampling will begin in mid-September 2022 and run through October 2022.

In 2021, the FDA conducted a leafy greens sampling assignment and has released a summary report of the results. As part of this assignment, the agency collected lettuce from commercial coolers in the Salinas Valley growing area and tested samples for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. between May and November 2021. The agency detected Salmonella enterica in one green leaf sample and STEC in two other samples. The potentially contaminated products were destroyed and follow-up inspections were conducted.

As a result of continued outbreaks and ongoing concerns about leafy green contamination, multi-disciplinary food safety experts from across the FDA also will be visiting with leafy greens producers in California over the next two months to learn more about leafy greens operations. The FDA shared that recent outbreaks have raised concerns about the sanitary design of harvest equipment and how field production and processing practices may be contributing to contamination events, which spurred the creation of this working group.

Salmonella

USDA Declares Salmonella an Adulterant in Breaded Stuffed Raw Chicken Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Salmonella

On August 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it will be declaring Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.

The FSIS noted that since 1998, breaded and stuffed raw chicken products have been associated with up to 14 outbreaks and approximately 200 illnesses. Products in this category are found in the freezer section and include some chicken cordon bleu or chicken Kiev products. The challenge is that these products appear cooked to consumers, but they are heat-treated only to set the batter or breading. The products contain raw poultry, and continual efforts to improve the product labeling have not been effective at reducing consumer illnesses, said the FSIS.

By declaring Salmonella an adulterant in these products, breaded and stuffed raw chicken products will be considered adulterated when they exceed a very low level of Salmonella contamination and would be subject to regulatory action. FSIS is proposing to set the limit at 1 colony forming unit (CFU) of Salmonella per gram for these products, a level that the agency believes will significantly reduce the risk of illness from consuming these products. The agency will also seek comment on whether a different standard for adulteration, such as zero tolerance or one based on specific serotypes, would be more appropriate.

“Today’s announcement is an important moment in U.S. food safety because we are declaring Salmonella an adulterant in a raw poultry product,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety. “This is just the beginning of our efforts to improve public health.”

The notice is expected to publish in the Federal Register in the fall. FSIS will be seeking public comments that address what the standard should be as well as to inform its final implementation plan, including a verification testing program. Once published, the notice will be posted in FSIS’ Federal Register & Rulemaking page for review and comment. When the proposal is finalized, FSIS will announce its final implementation plans and the date it will begin routine testing for Salmonella in these products.

In October 2021, USDA announced it was reevaluating its strategy for controlling Salmonella in poultry, including whether Salmonella should be considered an adulterant in specific raw poultry products. Since launching this effort, USDA has been focusing on gathering information by meeting with stakeholders to hear their ideas, asking for recommendations from food safety experts and soliciting ideas for pilot projects from industry to test drive different control strategies in poultry establishments. USDA plans to present a proposed framework for a new comprehensive strategy to reduce Salmonella illnesses attributable to poultry in October and convene a public meeting to discuss it in November.

Miguel Villa

USDA FSIS Integrates Salmonella Quantification Testing into Regional Labs

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Miguel Villa

In June, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) announced that it was rethinking its approach to Salmonella in poultry based on a review of data from 2015 to 2020 that showed a higher than anticipated reduction in Salmonella-contaminated chicken parts but no corresponding decrease in Salmonella-related illnesses attributable to poultry products.

Part of the new approach, shared in July, is the integration of Salmonella quantification testing in FSIS regional laboratories. The agency is now using GENE-UP QUANT Salmonella assay from bioMérieux, a non-enrichment quantification diagnostic tool for Salmonella.

We spoke with Miguel Villa, vice president of industrial applications for the Americas at bioMérieux to learn more about the new assay and how quantification methods may better serve public health initiatives.

Food Safety Tech (FST): How did your work with USDA FSIS come about?

Villa: bioMerieux is a French company with many, many years in the field of in vitro diagnostics. The background of the company is in human health care and life sciences. The legacy of this group is in vaccines going back to the time of Louis Pasteur. In fact, the founder of the group was a disciple of Louis Pasteur.

For the past 30 years, we have also been designing and manufacturing diagnostic tools and tests for the pharmaceutical and food industries. And for the past three years we—and other companies—have been in dialogue with the USDA FSIS and the FDA about the use of quantification for food safety and food testing for the benefit of public health.

There was discussion about the fact that, after years and years of better controls, increased testing and an increasing regulatory framework around food safety the level of foodborne illness that we continue to see is not where the regulators or the public want it to be. Based on that, we have had discussions about what are the next steps and how can we take this further to reduce diseases that are coming from food sources. There is a lot of focus on animal protein products, and one of the main contaminants has been Salmonella.

FST: What are some of the concerns or limitations of the current or traditional standards of testing?

Villa: The regulations now are focused on the presence or absence of Salmonella, and the regulators have accepted recently that we need to do more. One of the things that has been discussed quite a bit is quantification—not only do we want to know whether Salmonella is present, we want to know how much is present. This is what the GENE-UP QUANT Salmonella assay measures.

How this works is, whenever the FSIS gets a particular sample that is positive, they will use the assay to check how much Salmonella there is to get a better understanding of what they’re dealing with in terms of risk to public health.

FST: This is a non-enrichment detection method, why is that important?

Villa: True quantification can only come from the original sample. If you do something to that sample to stimulate growth, the organism typically does not grow in a linear fashion or you might be promoting limits of growth in that medium. So, the picture you get after enrichment is not exactly what is in the original sample, which is what you’re trying to understand.

FST: Is the assay quantifying only the density of Salmonella in the sample or is it also looking at serotypes?

Villa: Only the quantity. We are not looking at serotypes at this stage, but we are involved in the development of serotyping tools based on what we see coming down the road.

FST: Is the technology behind the GENE UP QUANT assay a new technology or new to the food safety industry?

Villa: GENE UP is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, and PCR has been around for more than 20 years, so the tool itself is not new. What is new—or what is recent—are the methods that we are using to develop tests. They are more accurate and precise. And they are able to use mathematical modeling to correlate the things that you see in the sample, quantify them and also assess them accurately from a sample that is not enriched.

In the future, we will use the same techniques to develop rapid, accessible tools to identify specific serotypes.

FST: The USDA FSIS has brought this testing into its regional laboratories, are food manufacturers and processors also using these in their facilities? Should they be thinking about that?

Villa: Now that it is public knowledge that the FSIS is using this testing and performing Salmonella quantification, they are educating the market about why they’re doing this. As a result, we are beginning to receive inquiries from clients of ours about the test. It is not a mandate at this stage, but for their own risk management processes, many companies will likely start incorporating it.

FST:  What is the benefit of quantification? Why is it important to regulators and food safety professionals to know not only if Salmonella is present, but how much?

Villa: The industry has been very interested in moving away from presence/absence testing only for a while, because many people think that not all Salmonella is pathogenic. In addition, we need to find better ways to gauge risk but at the same time not be as costly or as shotgun in our approach.

Quantification was recognized several years ago as a potential way for us to start correlating clinical outcomes—or the lack of them—with certain levels of Salmonella. We think there will come a time where people will start to agree that one of the data points you need as part of your risk assessment to make decisions at an industrial level is how much Salmonella is in the original sample. If it’s below a certain level, it may not be considered as risky.

In the future, by combining quantification and serotyping, we believe that we will be able to give manufacturers very accurate readings with all the information needed to make good decisions and good calls about their products.