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.

Vlog: 5 Fun Facts About Dioxins

Posted by Nick Price

April 26, 2017 at 1:00 PM

dioxins_blog-1.jpgHow much do you know about dioxins? Dioxins are toxic compounds that persist in the environment all around us. They exist in the air, the soil, rivers, lakes and even in the human food supply. They differ from other food contaminants in their unique chemical structure, which allows them to remain very resistant to breakdown. Throughout the past couple of decades, researchers have only begun to scratch the surface in gaining a thorough understanding of these molecules and their impact on the health of our society.

So what are the important characteristics of these harmful compounds? What should businesses along the food supply chain understand about dioxins to ensure safe ingredients and food products for consumers? And what actions are global health organizations and regulators taking to develop the best possible guidance for the food industry in dioxin monitoring? For answers, tune into our latest vlog below, “5 Fun Facts About Dioxins” to learn the basics of the class of destructive compounds that both food corporations and consumers alike should understand.

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

Technical Tuesdays: Where is Listeria Lurking in The Food Industry?

Posted by Dave Evanson

April 25, 2017 at 10:00 AM

shutterstock_117224119.jpgThose with lengthy careers or students of food microbiology history may recall the original Listeria Hysteria in the 1980s. While Listeria monocytogenes was responsible for an outbreak associated with fluid milk earlier in the decade, the Jalisco Cheese-related outbreak in 1985 was a major eye opener for the food industry. In the ensuing years, multiple dairy products were found to contain Listeria monocytogenes. A few years after that, the Ready-to-Eat (RTE) meat industry was the center of attention relative to reported incidents of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. Over the next few years, fruits, vegetables, seafood, deli salads and other products were also found to contain Listeria monocytogenes.

Using numerous studies and investigational information from outbreaks, an industry consensus emerged. Listeria monocytogenes contamination in food items was primarily due to cross-contamination in the production environment. Specifically cool, moist environments were identified as the “usual suspects” for Listeria monocytogenes to hide out and grow in. 

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Topics: Food Safety, Environmental Monitoring, Regulations, Pathogens, Listeria, Pathogen Testing

Mining Your Supply Chain Data to Optimize Your Food Quality and Safety Monitoring

Posted by Jennifer Derryberry

April 18, 2017 at 10:00 AM

data_mining_blog.jpgWhen mining for diamonds, one metric ton of rock must be scrutinized to turn up one gram of diamonds. Data mining in food manufacturing can be equally as tedious. Isolating critical pieces of information can be cumbersome, but when identified, it brings prominent value through insights and mitigating risk. Food quality and supply monitoring professionals are often focused on product performance trends over time. So even with a strategic food quality and safety monitoring program, critical values can get lost in the mean when trending big data. Finding the anomalies requires continuous monitoring and countless hours of research through thousands of data points daily. 

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Topics: Food Safety, Data Management, Supply Chain, Supply Chain Management, QualMap, Supply Chain Data, Food Quality

To Compliance and Beyond: Finding Intangibles Through Environmental Monitoring

Posted by Larry Bowman

April 13, 2017 at 1:00 PM

enviromap_april_blog.jpgSales of our new software, EnviroMap, have continued to grow over the last few years, and this growth has allowed me the opportunity to visit a number of our customers’ plants. I have visited plants that produce pet food, peanut butter, jelly, fresh vegetables, poultry and many more. These visits have given me the opportunity to speak directly with our EnviroMap users. I have seen firsthand how their sampling plans are improving over time and how they are using data that has been produced by EnviroMap to respond to contamination. Overall, I found it gratifying to see how the implementation and use of EnviroMap not only improves the operations by cutting cost, but also greatly enhances the overall productivity of the environmental programs. Corporate Quality teams were reporting how game-changing it was to be able to monitor, change and react to local environmental issues, whether at that particular plant or off-site. All of these factors make me proud of the significant contribution to food safety that EnviroMap is making. 

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Topics: Food Safety, Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Control Program, EnviroMap, Preventive Environmental Monitoring, Food Production

Technical Tuesdays: Digging Deeper to Find the Root Cause of Food Safety Issues

Posted by Jeff Strout

April 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM

root_cause_blog.jpgFood manufacturers who find an issue during an internal food safety audit need to perform a root cause analysis and take corrective actions in order to eliminate the problem. But what if subsequent internal audits reveal the same repeating issue? That is a good indication that the company did not find all of the root causes to place corrective actions against. And for many companies, the issue comes back repeatedly despite corrective actions. 

Recurring issues exist because food manufacturers often stop the process of root cause analysis after finding only one root cause. Root causes in food production facilities are much like a weed growing up through the crack in a sidewalk. The part of the weed visible above the sidewalk can be referred to as the “symptom.” Someone may use a Weed Wacker to remove the visible portion, but detaching this does not remove the roots below the surface. So, over time the weed grows back through the sidewalk because the roots were not eliminated. The same holds true for problems found in a food production facility. For example, say an internal audit finds forklift damage to a wall in a facility. The damage you can physically see in the wall would be known as the symptom, but the root cause lies in what caused the damage to the wall in first place. If the company repairs the damaged wall and thinks the problem is solved without addressing the root cause, then the wall will likely be damaged again and again. 

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Topics: Food Safety, Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Preventive Controls, Food Production, Facilities, Food Manufacturing, Root Cause, Root Cause Analysis

Regulatory Round-Up: Industry Challenged by the FDA’s Sodium Reduction Targets

Posted by Patrick Kennedy

April 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM

sodium_blog.jpegDid you know federal health authorities have estimated 44% of the sodium consumed by Americans comes from only 10 types of food? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the diet of 90% of Americans exceeds the recommended dietary sodium level for optimal public health. The high sodium levels found in many processed foods have triggered calls for food companies to reduce the salt content of food products; however, eliminating this valuable additive from food products can be a complex process. 

Serious health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, have been associated with the excessive sodium content of the typical American diet. In fact, a few notable studies were published this year concerning dietary sodium and public health, including: an examination of the sodium content of commercially packaged foods in the United States (J Acad Nutr Diet, 2017 Feb 3); a study of sodium intake linked to specific types of foods (Appetite, 2017 Feb 1); and a study of the association of a suboptimal diet with mortality (JAMA, 2017 Mar 7).

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Topics: Nutritional Labeling, FDA, Nutrition, Health, Dietary Guidelines, Sodium

How Old are Those Nutrient Values Destined for Your Nutrition Label?

Posted by Sophie Plummer

April 4, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Nutrition Blog.jpgThe United States and Canada have both made significant changes to their nutrition labels in the past year. In response, food manufacturers are dusting off each product's Certificate of Analysis (COA) to create new nutrition labels in order to comply with updated regulations. But food manufacturers should consider how old their nutrient data is before using it to create a new label. Before sending those new labels to print, check to make sure your nutrient values are still usable.

Reasons why a product’s nutrient data could have changed:

  • Ingredient Changes: When an ingredient, ingredient component or the source of an ingredient has changed, it’s advisable to verify the nutrient content.
  • Ingredient Variations: If an ingredient composition changes due to season, storage or other factors, then it could affect your data.
  • Processing Variations: If there’s a change in how a product has been processed, it’s time for a refresh.
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Topics: Nutritional Labeling, Nutrition, Analytical Testing, Lab Analysis, Database Calculation, Nutrition Facts Label

#ScrapTheWaste in Your Environmental Monitoring Program

Posted by Brent Wallen

March 30, 2017 at 10:00 AM

enviromap_blog-1.jpgWe are constantly challenged to do more with less: trim the fat, reduce costs, eliminate the scrap, etc. Simply look at your environmental monitoring program; the amount of time and money organizations spend clinging to manual, paper-based systems may surprise you.

The process at 30,000 feet doesn’t seem very complicated: sample your sites/locations, send the samples to the lab, receive the results, and report the findings. No problem, right?

It’s not until we examine the individual steps of the process that we discover the waste.

For example, before we collect our samples, we need to know how many and what type of samples are required, as well as where these samples need to be taken from in the plant. The process normally involves reviewing the environmental monitoring plan and a random number generator (15 minutes). If I’m unclear where the collection is to occur, I will need to ask or receive additional instructions (5 minutes).

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Topics: Environmental Monitoring, EnviroMap, Pathogens, Preventive Environmental Monitoring, Pathogen Testing

Technical Tuesdays: The Role of Sanitation in the Preventive Controls Rule For Human Food

Posted by Jeff Lucas

March 28, 2017 at 10:00 AM

sanitation_blog.jpgFor over 20 years, the food industry has been steadfast in our view of the role of sanitation in classical Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs. Our experience with meat and poultry HACCP by way of the International HACCP Alliance and what came later with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) HACCP requirements solidified the supportive role of sanitation as a food safety prerequisite program. We have managed sanitation as a separate prerequisite program, and then used these programs to eliminate the need for sanitation critical control points. However, compliance with the Preventive Controls Rule for Human Food (PCHF) as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act requires a different approach in how we manage sanitation procedures that directly addresses a food safety hazard identified in the hazard analysis.  

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Topics: Food Safety, HACCP, FSMA, Preventive Controls, FSMA Compliance, Hazard Analysis, Sanitation

The Importance of Data in Managing Your Food Supply Chain

Posted by Kevin Hoffmann

March 27, 2017 at 10:00 AM

supply_chain_blog.jpgFood quality and supply chain professionals are being forced to make acrobatic decisions on a daily basis to help ensure the safety of your brand and the continuity of your supply chain. As a professional, you rely on historical know-how and industry experience to be able to drive your decisions on both a daily and long-term strategic basis. Operational saving demands, brand safety and the need to be more competitive, all with less and less resources, are just some of the factors that are starting to be expected on a regular basis. 

This is where data comes into the picture and couples nicely with experience and expertise. At Mérieux NutriSciences, food safety and quality testing is at the core of what we do and is heavily embedded into our roots. Every test, audit, sample and interaction creates a data point that individually provides a simple point-in-time snapshot of your results. As this data is combined and analyzed, you will begin to see larger trends and will have the ability to analyze your business operations in a new, different light. 

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Topics: Food Safety, Data Management, Supply Chain, Supply Chain Management, Suppliers, QualMap, Supply Chain Data

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

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