Tag Archives: water

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FDA Report on E. Coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce Points to “Significant” Finding of Strain in Sediment of Water Reservoir

By Maria Fontanazza
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The November 2018 outbreak of E.coli O157:H7 infections linked to romaine lettuce caused 62 illnesses across 16 states. The FDA zeroed in on the Central Coast growing regions of northern and Central California as being responsible for the contamination. The outbreak was declared over on January 9 and yesterday FDA released the report, “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E.Coli O157:H7”, which provides an overview of the investigation.

The report states that a sediment sample coming from an on-farm water reservoir in Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County, California) tested positive for the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Although this particular farm was identified in several legs of the Fall 2018 traceback investigations that occurred in the United States and Canada, as well as being a possible supplier of romaine lettuce in the 2017 traceback investigations, the FDA said that the farm is not the single source of the outbreak, as there is “insufficient evidence”. The traceback suggests that the contaminated lettuce could have come from several farms, because not all tracebacks led to the farm on which the contaminated sediment was found.

“The finding of the outbreak strain in the sediment of the water reservoir is significant, as studies have shown that generic E. coli can survive in sediments much longer than in the overlying water. It’s possible that the outbreak strain may have been present in the on-farm water reservoir for some months or even years before the investigation team collected the positive sample. It is also possible that the outbreak strain may have been repeatedly introduced into the reservoir from an unknown source,” stated FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas in a press announcement.

(left to right) Stic Harris, FDA; Matt Wise, CDC; Dan Sutton, Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange; Scott Horsfall, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement discuss the first E.coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce during a panel at the 2018 Food Safety Consortium. Read the article about the discussion.

Although the exact route of contamination cannot be confirmed, the FDA hypothesizes that it could have occurred through the use of agricultural water from an open reservoir, which has increased potential for contamination.

The investigation teams also found evidence of “extensive” wild animal activity and animal burrows near the contaminated reservoir, as well as adjacent land use for animal grazing, all of which could have contributed to the contamination.

Although FDA did not directly name the farm in the report, it provided a link about the recall that was initiated by the farm, Adam Bros. Farming, Inc., in December.

Considering the significant effect that the past two E.coli outbreaks involving romaine lettuce have had on both the public as well as the produce industry, FDA made several recommendations on preventive measures that leafy greens growers and industry can take to avoid such pathogenic contamination, including:

For growers:

  • Assessing growing operations to ensure they are in line with compliance to FSMA and good agricultural practices
  • Making sure that any agricultural water that comes into direct contact with the harvestable portion of the crop, food contact surfaces and harvest equipment is safe and sanitary
  • Address and mitigate risks associated with agricultural water contamination that can occur as a result of intrusion by wild animals
  • Address and mitigate risks associated with the use of land near or adjacent to agricultural water sources that can lead to contamination
  • Conduct root cause analysis whenever a foodborne pathogen is identified in the growing environment, agricultural inputs like water or soil, raw agricultural commodities, or “fresh-cut” ready-to-eat produce

For the broader industry:

  • The development of real-time procedures that enable rapid examination of the potential scope, source and route of contamination
  • All leafy green products should have the ability to be traced back to the source in real time, and information include harvest date. In November, FDA requested voluntary labeling [https://foodsafetytech.com/news_article/cdc-alert-do-not-eat-romaine-lettuce-throw-it-out/] to help consumers identify products affected during an outbreak
  • The adoption of best practices in supply chain traceability

Resources

  1. FDA report: “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E.Coli O157:H7”
  2. FDA statement from Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas
  3.  FDA investigation of source of E.coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to romaine lettuce
Y-strainer, water filtration

Food Safety: Why Water Filtration is Important

By Tim McFall
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Y-strainer, water filtration

Food and beverage processing requires a lot of water. Whether it’s steam in the preparation or cleaning of dishes and flatware, or as an ingredient in food or beverages, water comes into contact with just about every edible or drinkable item in the food industry. That means the quality of the water used in food preparation or service must be monitored and managed to ensure not only that it tastes good, but also that it is safe for employees and customers.

Making sure water is safe to consume often requires the installation of a water filtration system. The quality of tap water greatly varies depending on where you are located. In some areas, there are higher levels of sediment, chemicals or organic matter in the water, which means that there is a likelihood that not only is the water not ideal for consumption, but it’s also damaging to equipment. Filtration systems will improve the lifespan of equipment that uses water.

How is Filtration Used in the Food Processing Industry?

Water filtration systems are typically used on any type of food processing equipment that uses water. This can include everything from the machinery in large food processing plants to smaller equipment in restaurants and school cafeterias.

When equipment or machinery that use water is run, over time it will develop a build up of scale (mineral deposits), which can lead to equipment breakdowns, malfunctions or even contamination of the food or beverage that is being processed. Using water filtration systems on food processing equipment will help prevent the scale build-up as it filters the water that is used in the equipment.

Water filtration removes sediment, chemicals, minerals and organic matter from water, improving the taste and smell, and safely eliminating contaminants that may be dangerous for the people who will consume the products being processed.

Which Areas are At Risk in Food Processing?

There is a presumption of both quality and safety in the American food and beverage industry by consumers. That is due to, in large part, the fact that there are standards and regulations by which food and beverage processes must abide. The quality burden often rests on the machinery or equipment that are used in processes. Thus, the need for water filtration systems is more than simply wanting to provide consumers with quality products—it is also crucial for the continued operation of manufacturers.

Improved water quality has highlighted filtration in recent years, and rightfully so. Water is a prevalent ingredient, cooking method and means of cleaning. Additionally, air power is used to operate pneumatic machinery, move food products, and sometimes add texture to those products. Water (liquid or steam) and air can easily transfer microbials or other contaminants into the food products, packaging or surfaces on which food comes into contact.

While every process is different depending on the equipment being used, there are generally three areas in the food and beverage process where filtration is critical:

  1. Prefiltration: In areas of the facility where water, air or steam sources are first brought in or are generated.
  2. Intermediate filtration: During the process when water, air and steam move through piping or other equipment prior to making direct contact with food or a surface in which food comes into contact.
  3. Final filtration: At the end of processing, where there is a last opportunity to manage surviving contaminants.

How Strainers Help Water Filtration Systems

One of the most common ways food and beverage processers ensure that there are no unwanted solids in the water or equipment they use is by installing sanitary strainers in the water piping in the above-mentioned areas. One such type of strainer is the y-strainer.

Click on page 2 to read the rest of this article.

Water

Water Contamination Threat Potentially Everywhere

By Maria Fontanazza
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Water

With water consumption increasing on every continent, the agricultural industry has an important issue in front of them: Will there continue to be enough water of suitable quality for agricultural production for the foreseeable future? Daniel Snow, director of the Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory at University of Nebraska, posed this question at the IAFP annual meeting earlier this month.

Worldwide, it is estimated that the availability of freshwater (annual per capita) is just 1700 m3. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, when this figure drops below 1000 m3 it puts pressure on not only on the economy but also on human health.

The amount of freshwater available for food production is limited (less than 3% of the world’s water is fresh). Further complicating the matter is the fact that this water comes from many different sources, and emerging contaminants are potentially everywhere. “We don’t really understand the effect [of these contaminants] on the environment or on human health,” said Snow. “We know the compounds occur in the water and likely occur in the food supply, but we don’t really understand the implications.”

According to Snow, there is very little regulation around water used for irrigation. Top concerns surrounding emerging contaminants include:

  • Water reuse. Recycled wastewater contains traces of the following contaminants, which accumulate over time:
    • Xenobiotics (organic compounds)
    • Inorganics
    • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria/germs. Up to 90% of some of the antibiotics excreted are not metabolized by animals and humans
    • Endocrine disrupters (steroids—natural and artificial in running water)
    • Pharmaceuticals (both human and veterinary)
  • Arsenic (namely related to rice production).  The element is not only found in soil in Asia but also in soil in certain parts of the United States
  • Co-occurrence of nitrate and uranium in ground water. There is growing evidence that uranium is being mobilized in water and one study has shown that uranium is readily taken up in food crops

It’s not all doom and gloom, said Snow. The upside to the issue: “We know enough now that we can start to understand the system and hopefully control the contaminants when producing food,” he said. The larger concern is determining which emerging contaminants pose the most significant problem.