In addition to routine screening for harmful pathogens, bacterial species identification and further strain differentiation play an important role in food safety and quality investigations. These methods can offer an immediate classification of an existing or new problem in a given facility. Additionally, the resulting data gives manufacturers the ability to track contamination strains and map the bacterial flora present within their facility in order to monitor raw materials, surfaces, finished product and overall sanitation effectiveness. Continue Reading

Food safety requirements start young, even before a child starts eating solid food. Infant formula serves as a partial or complete substitute for breast milk and as a sole source of all nutrients for an infant. Because it comprises much or all of an infant’s diet, the contamination of powdered infant formula with a foodborne pathogen poses an extreme risk to the health of a child, as their immune systems are still developing. One bacterium often found to be the culprit in cases of contamination in powdered infant formula is Cronobacter sakazakii (Cronobacter). Continue Reading

Would you be prepared if the FDA showed up at your facility unexpectedly to perform a swabathon? The FDA is conducting these elevated inspections by swabbing ready-to-eat (RTE) and high-risk food manufacturing facilities in search of foodborne pathogens. To help prepare manufacturers for these swabathons, our subject matter expert, Tim Freier, Ph.D., sat down to answer some questions posed by food industry professionals following our recent swabathon webinar, which is available to stream on-demand for free. Continue Reading

A new draft guidance, “Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods: Guidance for Industry” was published by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on January 13, 2017. Comments for this guidance were due July 26 and many trade associations and food manufacturers have submitted remarks. This draft guidance offers some excellent background information about Listeria control – more than simply using an environmental monitoring program (EMP). It also includes detailed coverage of many of the prerequisite programs (Good Manufacturing Practices) that are integral for Listeria control. In addition, it provides a comprehensive compilation of industry best practices and includes information about the validation of listeriostatic or listeriocidal formulations and processes. Continue Reading

Major developments in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have given the FDA new authority under the law. If the FDA decides to conduct a swabathon at your facility, you should expect a minimum of 100 to 300 swabs to be taken and a team of several investigators to conduct the swabathon. Based on the type of swabathon, you may also be required to hold production in your facility. This need is based on several factors, but, in particular, the zones that will be tested.

The FDA’s goal is to find pathogen isolates of Salmonella and or Listeria monocytogenes in and around the processing environment. As an outcome, the FDA will subsequently perform Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) on these Listeria monocytogenes isolates for their database. The FDA is now swabbing Zone 4 specifically for this purpose, with a WGS analysis of Salmonella expected to follow. The FDA’s zone focus will differ based on the environment and the specific pathogen they are seeking out. For Listeria monocytogenes, you can expect the FDA to begin sampling no sooner than 4 hours into production. 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

Recently,  multiple foodborne outbreaks caused by shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) have been epidemiologically linked to the consumption of wheat flour. This has been a hot topic of discussion with many of our flour milling clients as well as manufacturers and retailers who use flour as an ingredient or sell flour to consumers. Many in the food industry are wondering if they should be changing their hazard analyses, environmental monitoring programs, ingredient testing or finished product testing. Continue Reading