Here at Mérieux NutriSciences, our team of expert scientists upholds our mission of protecting consumers’ health through their daily work. Dr. Angela Nguyen joined our team this year to lead our molecular services laboratory, which covers our suite of services, including foodborne virus testing, Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), Vitek MS, Sanger Sequencing and Riboprinter Platform with bionumerics software. I recently met with Dr. Nguyen to learn more about her background, coming from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and where she sees the future of molecular biology headed within the food industry. Continue Reading

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

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

The practice of whole genome sequencing (WGS) has received a great deal of attention in the food industry and among industry trade associations in recent years. Whole genome sequencing is a process that uses laboratory methods to determine or map the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome. Each microorganism has a unique genetic fingerprint that can be identified and traced using WGS. Continue Reading

Recently, significant changes have been made to how the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts investigations of food manufacturing facilities. For starters, note that I did not say FDA inspections; they are now investigations. This change in semantics indicates a shift from a superficial “look around” a facility to diving into records and sometimes taking hundreds of environmental pathogen samples. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has prompted many of these changes, and has given the FDA increased power and access to records. The FDA is also now much more likely than in the past to involve the Department of Justice if there is any possibility of criminal intent. Along with this significant new regulatory authority, the industry has seen major leaps forward in microbial strain tracking technology, the most important being Next Generation Sequencing and its use for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS).  Continue Reading

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently unveiled its five-year strategic plan for ensuring the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products. Covering the fiscal years 2017-2021, the objectives of the Strategic Plan are classified within the core goals of preventing foodborne illness, modernizing inspection systems and scientific techniques, and improving operational excellence. Continue Reading