Co-authored with Erdogan Ceylan

Every summer, I sit under the carport with my family and shuck a few buckets of corn that we later boil and quickly freeze. I never thought much about that home process until I started working at the Mérieux NutriSciences Food Science Center and interacting regularly with customers who are on a much larger and elaborate scale doing the same thing with their vegetables.

Blanching vegetables not only improves product quality by changing the texture, preserving the flavor and color, but it can also serve as a critical control point in regards to pathogen inactivation.  Continue Reading

Co-authored with Erdogan Ceylan

More than ever, consumers are becoming aware and following food safety recalls in the produce industry. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with leafy greens have been particularly newsworthy. A popular meme, “right now chocolate is good for you and romaine lettuce can kill you,” is circulating around the internet. But there is some sad underlying truth to this statement. In 2018, there were two high-profile outbreaks in romaine lettuce. The first, starting in March and lasting through June, effected 210 people, 96 of which were hospitalized, 27 who developed uremic syndrome (which is a type of kidney failure) and 5 of which who died. The second starting in October, effected 62 people, 25 which were hospitalized and two who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Internet memes aside, pathogenic E. coli is incredibly dangerous and at the forefront of consumer’s minds. This burden on public health is largely preventable. 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

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

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), food manufacturers are charged with employing processes that mitigate risks and aid in the delivery of safe and stable products. Manufacturers employ a wide range of thermal processes to inactivate spoilage microorganisms and pathogens that can affect product shelf-life. Verifying the effectiveness of these processes through well-designed and executed validation studies is essential in today’s regulatory environment.  Continue Reading

The food industry has evolved from locally grown and consumed products to national and international operations. The globalization of food production and trade has raised the potential of food safety issues to an international level. The food industry has done a remarkable job ensuring food safety not only at the national level, but also at the international level.

As part of this effort, food companies — many times under regulatory guidelines — are required to validate their operations for safe and quality foods. Process validation studies determine the ability of a specific Critical Control Point (CCP) of a HACCP plan to achieve desired food safety objectives.  Continue Reading