Food Safety & Quality Blog
Mérieux NutriSciences is dedicated to helping companies worldwide find practical solutions to today's food safety and quality challenges throughout the supply chain.

Regulatory Round-Up: What is a ‘Healthy’ Food? - FDA Reconsidering the Definition of ‘Healthy’

Posted by Patrick Kennedy

March 23, 2017 at 10:00 AM

healthy_reg_blog.jpegWhat is a “healthy” food? Should a “healthy” food contain specific levels of vitamins and minerals? Conversely, should a “healthy” food limit potentially harmful components such as saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar or sodium? Questions surrounding the definition of a “healthy” labeling claim have surged in recent years due to the rising consumer demand for nutritious foods. 

To address this labeling issue, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) convened a meeting this month with industry stakeholders and consumer advocates. The meeting featured panel sessions, oral presentations and breakout sessions to facilitate a discussion regarding scientific data, consumer perceptions, and the current federal nutrition guidelines. Ultimately, the goal of the meeting was to reach a consensus supporting a revised definition and regulatory criteria for a “healthy” food labeling claim.

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Topics: Nutritional Labeling, FDA Regulation Updates, Regulations, Health Claims, Label Claims, Food Label

3 Key Facts to Know About Ractopamine

Posted by Nick Price

March 21, 2017 at 10:00 AM

ractopamine_blog.jpgThe mid- 2000s saw the rise of ractopamine as a prominent growth promoting agent for the meat industry. Suppliers in this industry are probably familiar with ractopamine, but manufacturers using meat in their products may not know much about its use and effects. We’ve pulled together the top 3 facts to know about ractopamine:

1. Ractopamine promotes lean muscle growth in the weeks prior to slaughter.
Ractopamine belongs to a class of drugs called beta adrenergic receptor agonists. These drugs mimic the effects of adrenaline, resulting in increased protein synthesis in muscle tissue during the administration period, which is typically a few weeks prior to slaughter. Ractopamine also increases feed efficiency, causing the livestock to grow at a more rapid rate while consuming less feed. This results in animals with a higher lean muscle to fat ratio, allowing farmers to be able to produce more lean meat on fewer natural resources.

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Topics: Ractopamine, Food Testing, Meat, Meat Industry, Veterinary Drugs

What are Dioxins?: Understanding the Sources and Health Effects

Posted by Nick Price

March 16, 2017 at 10:00 AM

dioxins_blog.jpgMost people are aware of typical environmental contaminants that are produced as a result of modern human activity, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter. Residents of larger cities may even be familiar with the visible smog that can engulf a skyline as a result of these air pollutants.

Aside from the common ones, other toxic contaminants exist in the environment that may be lesser-known by the general population, but can be just as harmful to humans. The word, "dioxins" refers to a group of compounds that includes dioxins, furans, and certain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These structurally similar compounds are produced inadvertently as a result of large scale combustion activities such as incineration, thermal metal processes, and car exhaust. PCBs were actually intentionally produced during the mid twentieth century to be used in transformer oil, coolant fluids, carbonless copy paper, and plasticizers, until their manufacture was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1979.

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Topics: Dioxins, Furan, PCB Analysis, Contaminants, Dioxin Sources, Dioxin Health Effects

Technical Tuesday: Using Whole Genome Sequencing to Better Decode Listeria Outbreaks

Posted by L. Scott Donnelly, Ph.D

March 14, 2017 at 1:00 PM

whole_genome_sequencing_blog.jpgThe practice of whole genome sequencing (WGS) has received a great deal of attention in the food industry and among industry trade associations in recent years. Whole genome sequencing is a process that uses laboratory methods to determine or map the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome. Each microorganism has a unique genetic fingerprint that can be identified and traced using WGS. 

Disease detectives use WGS as an important tool in foodborne illness outbreaks and recall situations. It provides genetic information about the germs (microorganisms) making people sick. This information improves our ability to detect, investigate and stop future foodborne outbreaks.

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Topics: Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Control Program, Pathogens, Preventive Environmental Monitoring, Whole Genome Sequencing, Foodborne Illness, Listeria

Regulatory Round-Up: Keys to Preventing Undeclared Allergens and Reducing Recalls

Posted by Patrick Kennedy

March 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

meat_allergens_blog.jpgA decade ago, allergens were an uncommon cause of meat and poultry product recalls in the United States. The proportion of meat and poultry products recalled annually due to allergens steadily increased from 8% in 2008 to 35% in 2012 due to increased awareness of the issue by inspection personnel and establishments. Moreover, the total number of recall events involving meat and poultry products due to undeclared allergens increased 103% between the calendar years 2012 and 2015. Undeclared allergens have now become the leading reason for recalls of meat and poultry products from the U.S. marketplace. 

To address the upward trend in undeclared recalls, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will host a public meeting in Washington DC on March 16 to discuss a strategic approach for establishments to reduce recalls due to undeclared allergens. The meeting will focus on the agency’s policy regarding undeclared allergens, labeling compliance and best practices for prevention.

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Topics: FSIS, USDA, Allergens,, Regulations, Product Recalls, Poultry, Meat, Meat Industry, Undeclared Allergens

Insider Insight to Non-GMO Claim Market Trends

Posted by Seth Keller

March 7, 2017 at 1:00 PM

gmo_blog.jpgIt’s no secret that consumers are continually seeking out healthier foods, with a particular emphasis lately on organic foods, dairy-free or meat-free alternatives and products free of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). But should you make a non-GMO claim on your food label? The answer lies in understanding consumer motivations for purchasing one product over another. While these trends are not new, non-GMO claims specifically have been on the rise as top motivators of consumer food choice over the past few years.

Understanding the Trends
Recent studies show that claims such as non-GMO do factor into decision making at the grocery store. According to the Illinois based research firm Nielsen, sales of food labeled “non-GMO” grew more than $8 billion from 2012 to 2016, reaching nearly $21.1 billion in total sales. The percent of new products being released into the market making organic and non-GMO claims in recent years has increased significantly compared to new products making other popular claims.

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Topics: Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, NonGMO, Food Production, Food Manufacturing, Consumer Trends

To Force or Not to Force?: The Key Question in Consumer Preference Testing

Posted by Gillian Dagan, Ph.D, CFS

March 2, 2017 at 10:00 AM

forced_choice_blog.jpgIn a world of fast moving decisions and limited resources, we are often asked to pick one thing over another based on our preference. It is quite common for me to ask my daughter to pick one type of candy to have for dessert. It is quite uncommon for her to say anything other than, “I want both!” Conversely, if I ask her to pick between green beans or zucchini for a side at dinner, she will answer, “I’ll take either.” 

As food industry professionals, we may use preference questions to identify a winning formulation or determine which of a number of products to take to market. In this instance we will use hedonic scales (likability scales) to address multiple aspects of the items like appearance, aroma, flavor, texture, and overall acceptability - and then ask our preference question between two samples. Asking panelists to pick one item over the other seems key for the objective of picking a winning product. But what if the formulations are liked the same by panelists? How would we ever know?

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Topics: Sensory Evaluation, Sensory Test, Product Testing, Product Development

The Maturity Model for Environmental Monitoring – Making Existing Plans Better

Posted by Tim Freier, Ph.D.

February 28, 2017 at 1:00 PM

maturity_model_blog.jpgBack in 1999, I started contributing as a developer and instructor for the “Advanced Listeria monocytogenes Intervention and Control Workshop,” presented by the American Meat Institute, which is now called the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). During the first few meetings, I took great interest in learning how each of the major US meat and poultry Ready-to-eat (RTE) manufacturers were conducting their Environmental Monitoring Programs (EMPs). A pledge by industry executives to keep food safety a non-competitive issue enabled open sharing, which brought some intense discussions as we worked towards a consensus of what constituted the true best practices for EMPs. This open forum, combined with a close collaborative interaction with the USDA- FSIS, allowed the US RTE meat and poultry industry to make tremendous strides in reducing the risk of L. monocytogenes. 

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Topics: Environmental Monitoring, Preventive Environmental Monitoring, Listeria, Maturity Model

Regulatory Round-Up: Third-Party Audits, GFSI and FSMA – FDA Seeks Strategic Partnerships for Imported Foods

Posted by Patrick Kennedy

February 23, 2017 at 10:00 AM

reg_roundup_2.23.jpgQuestions about the role of industry standards for complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have existed since the law was enacted more than six years ago. Due to the upcoming requirements for foreign supplier verification, industry stakeholders are urging the FDA to extend the compliance date, and to clarify the role of private entities for supporting compliance with the new FSMA requirements for imported food. 

The role of strategic partnerships for improving the safety of imported food was the focus of a two-day FDA public hearing held last week (February 14-15, 2017). The hearing followed public meetings held last year on imported food safety, which raised questions about the role of private certification schemes and third-party audits for supporting compliance with FSMA by foreign suppliers.

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Topics: Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), GFSI, FSMA, Imported Food, Foreign Suppliers, Foreign Suppliers Verification Program, FSMA Compliance

The Environmental Monitoring Monologues: What About Mississippi?

Posted by Larry Bowman

February 20, 2017 at 10:00 AM

enviromap_blog.jpegSeveral years ago, I attended the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) annual meeting, representing our new EnviroMap Software Solution. We spent almost five years developing a comprehensive product that would allow us to manage environmental sampling plans for food plants. Prior to that, we developed Laboratory Information Software solutions for food and energy labs for over ten years. From that experience, we recognized an emerging market for a comprehensive cost effective software tool to manage environmental sampling. This combined with the pending regulations of the new Food Safety Modernization Act made us certain that we had the ideal opportunity for our new software, EnviroMap. 

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Topics: Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Control Program, EnviroMap, Preventive Environmental Monitoring

Mérieux NutriSciences’ Scientist Publishes Food Safety Study in International Journal of Food Microbiology

Posted by Pam Coleman

February 16, 2017 at 10:00 AM

food_safety_study_blog.jpegI once jokingly said during a presentation that there were at least 10 ways to sabotage your food pathogen testing program. While no conscientious food safety leader would set out to negatively impact their own program, the high attention to detail and constant organizational discipline required for an effective testing program leave some room for error. If any small step is not well designed and expertly executed, then your entire program may be worthless - or worse - may cost you millions due to a recall or human illnesses. One factor in particular that manufacturers need to focus their attention on is the reliability of their pathogen sampling and compositing (pooling) strategy, as well as the applicability of their pathogen method. Specifically, what test portion should be taken to ensure accurate results, and what method should be used when testing for the presence of pathogens?

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Topics: Salmonella, Food Safety, Microbiology,, Food Testing, Research, Pathogens, International Journal of Food Microbiology, Sampling, Pathogen Testing

Technical Tuesdays: Harnessing Integrated Pest Management For Your Facility

Posted by Jeff Strout

February 14, 2017 at 10:00 AM

pest_blog_photo.jpgAs an auditor for over 35 years, I have noticed most food facilities do not fully understand the fundamentals of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Many know about pest control, but they do not quite grasp the full power of establishing an effective IPM plan.  

There are five steps for establishing an effective IPM plan: 

1) Identify the Target Pests 
To create your IPM plan, you need to first fully identify the target pests for your facility and the surrounding area. This includes all pests, and is not limited to only the ones the local pest control contractor covers under their service plan. I have heard stories about deer, dogs and even chickens getting into facilities where they don’t belong. I’ve also seen facilities with hundreds of stray cats around the outside of the plant; others with thousands of birds flying outside; and some where bats, raccoons, possums and even an alligator managed to get inside. 

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Topics: Food Safety, Food Production, Pest Management, Facilities, Food Manufacturing, Pests

Regulatory Round-Up: New Canadian Food Safety Regulations Target International Harmonization

Posted by Patrick Kennedy

February 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

sfca_blog.jpgBelieve it or not, it's been nearly five years since Canada approved its comprehensive food safety legislation known as the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA). The legislation was developed to streamline Canada’s food safety regulations, improve regulatory oversight, and increase international regulatory alignment with its key trading partners, particularly the United States. To implement the legislation, Canada recently published the proposed Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. 

Foodborne illness affects an estimated four million Canadians annually, resulting in 238 deaths and nearly 12,000 hospitalizations. Since 2011, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has reported 84 recalls related to fresh fruits and vegetables, and more than 1,500 food product recalls attributed to non-federally registered establishments not covered by the existing commodity-based regulations. Health Canada has suggested the increasing incidents of food safety issues have been attributed to expanding consumer preferences for minimally processed foods (e.g. bagged salads) as well as new production and distribution systems.

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Topics: Food Safety, Regulations, Canada, CFIA, Preventive Controls, Safe Food for Canadians Act, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, SFCA

How FDA “Swabathons” Factor Into Environmental Monitoring

Posted by Tim Freier, Ph.D.

February 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM

swabathon_blog copy.jpgRecently, significant changes have been made to how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts investigations of food manufacturing facilities. For starters, note that I did not say FDA inspections; they are now investigations. This change in semantics indicates a shift from a superficial “look around” a facility to diving into records and sometimes taking hundreds of environmental pathogen samples. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has prompted many of these changes, and has given the FDA increased power and access to records. The FDA is also now much more likely than in the past to involve the Department of Justice if there is any possibility of criminal intent. Along with this significant new regulatory authority, the industry has seen major leaps forward in microbial strain tracking technology, the most important being Next Generation Sequencing and its use for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). 

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Topics: Environmental Monitoring, FDA, Preventive Environmental Monitoring, Whole Genome Sequencing, Swabathons

Fundamentals for Setting Up a Successful Sensory Test

Posted by Gillian Dagan, Ph.D, CFS

February 2, 2017 at 1:00 PM

sensory_blog_photo.jpgStarting A Sensory Test 
Preparing to test your product with a target audience can be an exciting and scary feat. So, we’ve had our experts prepare the top three things you need to know so you’ll be prepared well in advance of reaching out for testing. 

Determine Your Objective: Know What You Want
Objectives. What questions are you trying to answer about your product? If you are having trouble answering this question, speaking with a sensory scientist can help. We can help you determine if you are searching for information on customer preference, or differences between products, or possibly purchase intent.

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Topics: Sensory Evaluation, Sensory Test, Product Testing, Product Development

Technical Tuesdays: HACCP Program Use in Dairy Operations

Posted by Tedd Wittenbrink

January 31, 2017 at 10:00 AM

dairy_blog.jpgUsing Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles to manage food safety in the dairy industry is not a new concept. Most dairy manufacturers have already implemented HACCP as a process to manage food safety in addition to regulatory requirements. 

Although the FDA Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule is not required for Grade A dairies until September 2018, customers and retailers continue to require their suppliers to have an effective and operational HACCP Plan in place that is overseen by a trained individual. Additionally, Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) schemes such as Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF) and British Retail Consortium (BRC) also require HACCP implementation overseen by a trained individual. Finally, global organizations, such as The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), continue to recognize HACCP (Codex HACCP) as a system which identifies, evaluates, and controls hazards which are significant for food safety. 

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Topics: Food Safety, HACCP, Dairy, GFSI, Dairy Operations, SQF, Hazard Analysis, Dairy Industry, Global Food Safety Initiative, FAO, Safe Quality Food Institute

Regulatory Round-Up: Strategies for Controlling Listeria in Ready-To-Eat Foods

Posted by Patrick Kennedy

January 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM

rte regulatory blog.jpgIf you are subject to the final rule, Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (PCHF rule), then you should be aware of FDA’s new recommendations for controlling Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. Manufacturers, processors, packers and holders of RTE foods will benefit from an understanding of the strategies and recommendations described within the new draft guidance. 

Released this month, the draft guidance sheds light on the agency’s thinking regarding effective strategies for controlling L. monocytogenes in RTE foods, including identifying the risks associated with raw materials and ingredients, listericidal process control, environmental monitoring, product testing, and the analysis of verification data trends.

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Topics: FDA Regulation Updates, FDA, Pathogens, Preventive Controls, Listeria, Ready-to-Eat Foods, CGMPs, Hazard Analysis

Technical Tuesdays: Essential Hazard Analysis - Understanding the Microbiological Profile of Ingredients

Posted by Jennifer Johnson

January 24, 2017 at 1:00 PM

shutterstock_540249184.jpgRequired under both the FDA and USDA-FSIS regulations, the Hazard Analysis is arguably the most important component of any food manufacturer’s food safety system. Unless identification of CCPs or Preventive Controls is based on a scientifically sound, properly-supported hazard analysis, hazards may not be adequately controlled. Since microbial hazards often represent the greatest potential food safety risk for food products, it’s critical to understand the microbiological profile of ingredients. This requires both general knowledge of hazards applicable to a particular ingredient and specific information on the ingredients sourced from your suppliers. 

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Topics: Pathogens, Food Production, Food Manufacturing, Mirobiology, Hazard Analysis, Ingredients

The Hidden Cost of Product Recalls

Posted by Seth Keller

January 19, 2017 at 10:00 AM

hidden_cost_recalls_blog.jpegIn 2016, various high profile recalls and minor scale recalls threatened the public safety of consumers across North America. Although it’s impossible to eliminate human error, and thus recalls entirely, it is paramount to understand the direct economic impact of recalls and related risks. Likewise, there are extensive efforts made by regulatory agencies to support food manufacturers as a supplement to the efforts your company should be making to ensure you remain off the recall lists in 2017.

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Topics: Food Safety, Environmental Monitoring, Recalls, FDA, Preventive Controls, Product Recalls

Technical Tuesdays: Analyzing Government Reports on Illness Outbreaks and Recalls

Posted by Dave Evanson

January 17, 2017 at 10:00 AM

government_report_blog.jpgGovernmental agencies overseeing the food industry have traditionally had a love/hate relationship with the sector. With the advent of new regulations, this relationship is sure to face its share of future challenges as well. However, government agencies ultimately take responsibility for the public’s health, and they provide support to the industry to keep consumers safe. Some of the tools made available to the public, as well as food safety professionals, identify public health issues related to various etiologic agents. 

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide daily updates on food recall events, as well as recalls of dietary supplements. Additionally, a compilation of both FDA and USDA events is available to the public. In keeping up with the Joneses, apps and widgets also offer a way the food industry or consumers in general to stay informed. The information available from these sources includes the etiologic agent involved, product type and other important data.  

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Topics: USDA, Recalls, FDA, Government Agencies, Foodborne Illness, Product Recalls


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