Ensuring the safety and quality of pet food in the United States continues to be a challenging and complex endeavor. Despite the highly regulated nature of the industry and pet food manufacturers’ best efforts, there are many challenges, such as the growing complexity of global supply chains, emerging contaminants and evolving regulatory, and customer requirements. With these challenges as a backdrop, several well-known incidents linked to microbiological hazards, natural toxins, and chemical contaminants have occurred in recent years. Continue Reading

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for family, friends, good health, and of course food. Lots of food! Most families have mastered the preparation of the main dishes, whether it’s through sacred family recipes, or certain family members preparing their signature dishes.  The traditional Thanksgiving staples of turkey, stuffing (a.k.a. dressing), and pie, while tasty and healthy in their own rights, are normally the main focus of the evening. As a change of pace, this year you might want to consider giving added attention to some of the traditional ingredients from the most important sections of the food pyramid: Fruits and Vegetables!  Continue Reading

Validation and verification are becoming new buzz words in the world of food microbiology, especially when it comes to quantitative and qualitative testing. This blog will focus on qualitative testing. Under a key Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirement, food manufacturers must ensure their matrices are tested using methods that have been validated by a recognized accrediting body for that particular food category.  The main food categories found in International Standards Organization (ISO) and AOAC INTERNATIONAL guidelines are then further sub-categorized on the basis of broad food categories and microbial load and recovery. To validate a category of foods, one matrix from each sub-category must be tested according to recognized validation processes to ensure the method is applicable to all types of foods in that category. Therefore, when a non-validated matrix is being tested, it is highly recommended, and required through FSMA, that there be some type of verification conducted for qualitative testing before using the method.  This is particularly important when results are to be used for regulatory purposes.  Continue Reading

Viruses are a leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), viruses account for more than 50% of foodborne disease. Annually, Norovirus causes about 21 million illnesses and contributes to about 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths.

Norovirus and Hepatitis A are the two main viruses of concern for the food industry.  Over the past several years, a number of Norovirus and Hepatitis A (HAV) outbreaks have been linked to a wide variety of foods, including berries, pomegranate seeds and oysters. While both viruses are transmitted via the fecal-oral route, they have very different durations and symptoms. Continue Reading

In the pursuit of improved food safety, environmental control measures are highly recommended to prevent finished product contamination. Largely void of state-of-the-art gadgets and gizmos, environmental control programs can be viewed as “the nuts and bolts” of food safety programs. However, their value in the ongoing battle against foodborne disease cannot be denied. This article covers a number of the vital components that are found in environmental control programs. Continue Reading

Cronobacter, an emerging opportunistic foodborne pathogen, is posing an increased risk to the health of neonates, persons with immunocompromising conditions, the elderly, and even healthy adolescents and adults. This gram-negative, anaerobic, motile, and rod shaped bacteria exists in the environment and can survive in a variety of dry conditions. Due to the rarity of infections and wide variety of symptoms caused by Cronobacter, the bacterium is under-reported and not well understood in the United States. Continue Reading

According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF), shelf-life is “the amount of time that a food product is considered acceptable for consumption when stored at the appropriate storage conditions.” When determining if a food product is acceptable for consumption, several factors – including organoleptic properties (taste, texture, odor, appearance), microbial spoilage and chemical changes to the product during storage – must be considered.  Continue Reading

The best HACCP, GMP, or sanitation training program can be rendered meaningless if your company suffers from high employee turnover. The proper orientation of employees should not be undervalued or overlooked.

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The first few weeks or months in a food plant environment with new responsibilities can be highly stressful and confusing. During this critical time, an effective orientation can mean the difference between a new employee becoming an asset or realizing a lost return on your investment. Continue Reading