The identification and differentiation of bacteria date back to the late 1800s. Primary interest often focused on microorganisms impacting animal or human health. Salmonella falls under this umbrella, as it was first identified during a hog cholera study in the 1880s. Early work relied on phenotypic (observable) characteristics due to the limitations of the science at the time, but advancements in science led to the initial development of an antigenic schema for Salmonella. Over the ensuing years, the use of phenotypic and antigenic characteristics helped define the taxonomy of Salmonella (>2600 serovars). These characteristics have also been used for decades in public health investigations involving foodborne illnesses. Linking a Salmonella isolate from an ill human to a Salmonella isolate from a food through serotyping played a critical role in these investigations. Continue Reading

Those 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. Continue Reading

Governmental 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. Continue Reading