Yeast and mold are organisms of great importance to the food industry. These members of the fungi kingdom are very different from bacteria, including differences in basic cellular structure and the way that they reproduce. Hundreds of yeast and mold species have been isolated from foods. Due to their ability to grow over a wide spectrum of environmental conditions, very few foods are entirely safe from fungal spoilage.

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An estimated 15 million food shipments are expected to arrive at 300 U.S. ports of entry this year from up to 125,000 foreign facilities located in over 200 countries. In recent years, an upward trend in the volume and diversity of imported food shipments has created regulatory and food safety challenges. Addressing these challenges, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed a new regulatory oversight strategy for ensuring the safety of imported foods.

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Despite continuing technological advancements, preventing products from becoming contaminated with pathogens remains a challenge in the food industry. To monitor foodborne illness, the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) actively conducts surveillance of laboratory-diagnosed infections caused by pathogens commonly transmitted through food sources.

FoodNet is a partnership between the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, 10 state health departments and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It monitors infections due to: Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC, Shigella, Vibrio and Yersinia. To gather the data, outbreaks are monitored at 10 sites throughout the country that account for approximately 15% of the U.S. population. In 2016, FoodNet tracked outbreaks for an estimated 49 million people. The preliminary 2017 FoodNet surveillance data shows that foodborne illness continues to be a considerable health burden despite ongoing food safety measures. Below are three key questions raised by examining the 2017 FoodNet data: Continue Reading

Whether they’re sprinkled on top of a salad, mixed into brownie batter or added as the star ingredient in a granola bar; nuts and seeds tend to find their way into many food products. However, it is vital for food manufacturers to ensure the safety of these items in their products. Tree nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts and peanuts have been identified as a vehicle for foodborne pathogens, including Enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. Moreover, seeds such as sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds have been recently linked to bacterial pathogens. For example, in May 2016, almost 100 products were recalled due to Listeria contamination in sunflower seeds. Salmonella also appears to be of concern in nuts, as it has been associated with many outbreaks and recalls in recent years. Continue Reading

The Food Safety Modernization Act has introduced many new food safety requirements to the food industry. In particular, FSMA places a focus on performing a hazard analysis and using preventive measures in food manufacturing. The requirement to develop and implement supplier preventive controls for raw materials and ingredients to address hazards has renewed interest in methods for sampling and testing raw materials. In order for sampling and testing to be used to address pathogen concerns identified in the hazard analysis of raw materials, a valid sampling plan must be in place. Continue Reading