Should peanut butter be microwaved to control Salmonella: Maybe?

This study evaluated the efficacy of a 915 MHz microwave with 3 different levels to inactivate 3 serovars of Salmonella in peanut butter.

peanut.butter.peter.panPeanut butter inoculated with Salmonella enterica serovar Senftenberg, S. enterica serovar Typhimurium and S. enterica serovar Tennessee were treated with a 915 MHz microwave with 2, 4 and 6 kW and acid and peroxide values and color changes were determined after 5 min of microwave heating. Salmonella populations were reduced with increasing treatment time and treatment power. Six kW 915 MHz microwave treatment for 5 min reduced these three Salmonella serovars by 3.24–4.26 log CFU/g. Four and two kW 915 MHz microwave processing for 5 min reduced these Salmonella serovars by 1.14–1.48 and 0.15–0.42 log CFU/g, respectively. Microwave treatment did not affect acid, peroxide, or color values of peanut butter.

These results demonstrate that 915 MHz microwave processing can be used as a control method for reducing Salmonella in peanut butter without producing quality deterioration.

 Inactivation of Salmonella Senftenberg, Salmonella Typhimurium and Salmonella Tennessee in peanut butter by 915 MHz microwave heating

Food Microbiology, Volume 53, Part B, February 2016, Pages 48–52

Won-Jae Song, Dong-Hyun Kang

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740002015001689

What makes people sick in Connecticut

Foodborne pathogens cause >9 million illnesses annually. Food safety efforts address the entire food chain, but an essential strategy for preventing foodborne disease is educating consumers and food preparers.

connecticut.foodTo better understand the epidemiology of foodborne disease and to direct prevention efforts, we examined incidence of Salmonella infection, Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli infection, and hemolytic uremic syndrome by census tract–level socioeconomic status (SES) in the Connecticut Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network site for 2000–2011.

Addresses of case-patients were geocoded to census tracts and linked to census tract–level SES data. Higher census tract–level SES was associated with Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, regardless of serotype; hemolytic uremic syndrome; salmonellosis in persons ≥5 years of age; and some Salmonella serotypes. A reverse association was found for salmonellosis in children <5 years of age and for 1 Salmonella serotype. These findings will inform education and prevention efforts as well as further research.

Socioeconomic status and foodborne pathogens in Connecticut, USA, 2000–20111

Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 21, Number 9—September 2015

Bridget M. Whitney, Christina Mainero, Elizabeth Humes, Sharon Hurd, Linda Niccolai, and James L. Hadler

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/9/15-0277_article

Indian state makes food safety a priority, conducts raids

As many as 1,766 food safety raids have been carried out across Kerala and nine shops have been closed for selling adulterated food articles during Onam season, Health Minister V S Sivakumar said. 

keralaThe drives were conducted as part of ‘Operation Ruchi,’ the state-wide food safety initiative launched by the Health Department to restrict the use of chemicals and other harmful ingredients in food articles. Sivakumar said the initiative was a big success during Onam season and raids would be continued in the coming days.

“A total of 1,766 raids have been carried out under the drive during Onam period. Raids are continuing at eateries, vegetable stalls and check posts,” he said here.  The minister said the government’s efforts to ensure the availability of unadulterated food articles, complying with the food safety standards, during the festival season met with success.

Jeni’s ice cream back after Listeria positives, changes

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams LLC is reopening its production kitchen, but it no longer will be making its ice cream.

jenis-ice-creamThe Columbus-based ice cream maker’s facility at 909 Michigan Ave. will now be used to handle and prepare ingredients, but final production of its products will continue to be done by Orrville-based Smith Dairy, which has been making the company’s ice cream since the production kitchen closed for a second time back in June.

The company declined to answer questions about its new production process at this time.

(Note to self: building trust requires transparency).

Ingredients from farms will be processed in a kitchen separate from the production facility. Produce will not move into the production kitchen until it has been cleaned, peeled, shucked or hulled in that first kitchen.

The production kitchen will still prepare certain ingredients because it has the specialized equipment to do so.

Ingredients then will be transported to Smith Diary, which supplies Jeni’s with its grass-grazed milk and cream, and will be mixed with dairy and frozen into ice cream there.

Every batch will be tested for listeria and other bacteria before going to the public.

The company will continue to handle all of its own research and development and ingredient sourcing, as it was doing prior to the shutdowns.

US school lunches safe

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases boneless and ground beef for distribution to recipients through federal nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program, which represents 93% of the overall volume.

lunchlady.simpsonsApproximately every 2,000 lb (ca. 907 kg) of boneless beef and 10,000 lb (ca. 4,535 kg) of ground beef are designated a “lot” and tested for Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, standard plate count organisms (SPCs), E. coli, and coliforms. Any lot of beef positive for E. coli O157:H7 or for Salmonella, or any beef with concentrations of organisms exceeding critical limits for SPCs (100,000 CFU g–1), E. coli (500 CFU g–1), or coliforms (1,000 CFU g–1) is rejected for purchase by AMS and must be diverted from federal nutrition assistance programs. From July 2011 through June 2014, 537,478,212 lb (ca. 243,795,996 kg) of boneless beef and 428,130,984 lb (ca. 194,196,932 kg) of ground beef were produced for federal nutrition assistance programs.

Of the 230,359 boneless beef samples collected over this period, 82 (0.04%) were positive for E. coli O157:H7, 924 (0.40%) were positive for Salmonella, 222 (0.10%) exceeded the critical limit for SPCs, 69 (0.03%) exceeded the critical limit for E. coli, and 123 (0.05%) exceeded the critical limit for coliforms. Of the 46,527 ground beef samples collected over this period, 30 (0.06%) were positive for E. coli O157:H7, 360 (0.77%) were positive for Salmonella, 20 (0.04%) exceeded the critical limit for SPCs, 22 (0.05%) exceeded the critical limit for E. coli, and 17 (0.04%) exceeded the critical limit for coliforms.

Cumulatively, these data suggest beef produced for the AMS National School Lunch Program is done so under an adequate food safety system, as indicated by the low percentage of lots that were pathogen positive or exceeded critical limits for indicator organisms.

Microbiological testing results of boneless and ground beef purchased for the national school lunch program, 2011 to 2014

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 9, September 2015, pp. 1624-1769

Doerscher, Darin R.; Lutz, Terry L.; Whisenant, Stephen J.; Smith, Kerry R.; Morris, Craig A.; Schroeder, Carl M.

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2015/00000078/00000009/art00005

Peel produce rather than brush to reduce pathogens

Consumers are being advised to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk of chronic disease.

carrot.peelerHowever, to achieve that goal, consumers must be able to implement protocols in their kitchens to reduce their risk of consuming contaminated produce.

To address this issue, a study was conducted to monitor the fate of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on produce (cantaloupe, honeydew melon, carrots, and celery) that were subjected to brushing or peeling using common kitchen utensils.

Removal of similar levels of Salmonella from carrots was accomplished by peeling and by brushing, but significantly greater removal of E. coli O157:H7 from carrots was accomplished by peeling than by brushing under running water (P < 0.05). Brushing removed significantly fewer pathogens from contaminated cantaloupes than from other produce items (P < 0.05), suggesting that the netted rind provided sites where the pathogen cells could evade the brush bristles. A Sparta polyester brush was less effective than a scouring pad for removing Salmonella from carrots (P < 0.05). In all cases, brushing and peeling failed to eliminate the pathogens from the produce items, which may be the result of contamination of the utensil during use. High incidences of contamination (77 to 92%) were found among peelers used on carrots or celery, the Sparta brush used on carrots, and the scouring pad used on carrots and cantaloupe. Of the utensils investigated, the nylon brush had the lowest incidence of pathogen transference from contaminated produce (0 to 12%). Transfer of pathogens from a potentially contaminated Sparta brush or peeler to uncontaminated carrots did not occur or occurred only on the first of seven carrots processed with the utensil. Therefore, risk of cross-contamination from contaminated utensils to uncontaminated produce may be limited.

Role of brushes and peelers in removal of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella from produce in domestic kitchens

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 9, September 2015, pp. 1624-1769

Erickson, Marilyn C.; Liao, Jean; Cannon, Jennifer L.; Ortega, Ynes R.

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2015/00000078/00000009/art00001

After Listeria, Jeni’s Splendid founder calls for more industry self-regulation

From the duh files.

Listeria contamination last spring at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams taught company founder Jeni Britton Bauer one lesson: The food industry can’t rely solely on state and federal inspectors to protect consumers.

listeria4The industry also needs to take an active role.

“What has to change is how businesses view our responsibilities,” Bauer said Thursday during what was billed as a “true confessions” talk at Lowcountry Local First’s Good Business Summit in Charleston.

“Do we rely on their periodics (inspections)? Do we rely on our health inspectors any more?” Bauer said. “Absolutely no. Because we know that they are not experts in food safety, they are experts in the law and those are totally different things.

 “The responsibility is on business … to make healthy things, to keep people healthy.”

What Bauer didn’t know at the time, she said, was that the FDA had known about the Listeria problem long before it went public.

“They knew about it for like three weeks, crazy, before it ever got to us, which is very weird,” Bauer said.

FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher said she could not immediately verify if that timeline was accurate. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is the agency that discovered the contamination and officials from that agency have declined to say when the sample was collected.

Been there. Done that.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Going public, Dutch style

Mandatory notification can be a useful tool to support infectious disease prevention and control.

silence.commGuidelines are needed to help policymakers decide whether mandatory notification of an infectious disease is appropriate. We developed a decision aid, based on a range of criteria previously used in the Netherlands or in other regions to help decide whether to make a disease notifiable.

Criteria were categorised as being effective, feasible and necessary with regard to the relevance of mandatory notification. Expert panels piloted the decision aid. Here we illustrate its use for three diseases (Vibrio vulnificus infection, chronic Q fever and dengue fever) for which mandatory notification was requested. For dengue fever, the expert panel advised mandatory notification; for V. vulnificus infection and chronic Q fever, the expert panel concluded that mandatory notification was not (yet) justified.

Use of the decision aid led to a structured, transparent decision making process and a thorough assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory notification of these diseases. It also helped identify knowledge gaps that required further research before a decision could be made. We therefore recommend use of this aid for public health policy making.

 To notify or not to notify: decision aid for policy makers on whether to make an infectious disease mandatorily notifiable

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 34, 27 August 2015

P Bijkerk, EB Fanoy, K Kardamanidis, SM van der Plas, MJ te Wierik, ME Kretzschmar, GB Haringhuizen, HJ van Vliet, MA van der Sande

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=21216

‘Some pink or no pink?’ Hamburger safety BS

Food safety friend Michéle writes:

As part of my daily public health mission, I track foodborne outbreaks and teach food safety. I do the latter to try to reduce the former.  Anywhere, anytime, anyway I can introduce it into conversation.  Because everyone should be served safe food.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175Recently, on a rare night out, I was trying to order a hamburger from a small regional restaurant.

The conversation progressed like this:

Waiter:  Do you want that burger with ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink?’

Me:  Can you tell me what temperature equals ‘some pink’?

Waiter:  We don’t cook to a temperature.  We cook to ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

Me:  Color is not an indicator of doneness.   Please ask the chef to cook my burger to 155 degrees F.

Waiter:  Our burgers have no dyes. We can only do ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

meatwad.raw.hamburgerAs a food safety professional, I was concerned with this.   As I mentioned to the waiter, “some pink or no pink” is not an indicator of doneness.  Numerous meat chemistry factors play a role in influencing color and can result in premature browning, which is why color is not a reliable indicator.

So I reached out to the restaurant’s customer service representative via Twitter and email, asking about their beef procedures. Ever the educator, I even provided resources for them to review, in case it proved helpful to their response.   www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/plain_language/restaurants-ground-beef-handling-cooking.pdf

To their credit, the company seemed happy to respond and explain their hamburger handling processes, and I received a reply from their “Chief Strategy Officer.” Unfortunately their explanation of safe meat handling was NOT correct, and definitely NOT food safe:

From their email:

“The dangers in ground beef have to do with the grinding process, the potential contamination comes from the exterior of the animal. Steak is safe to eat raw because it is only the interior of the animal and it does not get ground up with any exterior parts of the animal. The bacteria cannot pass into the internal flesh unless it is ground in. We grind in house  so there is no surface coming in contact with our beef.”

The email goes on to explain:

“We don’t sell our hamburgers based on temperature because we hand-form our burgers and therefore they have different internal temperatures throughout the patty as there are different thicknesses. We cook our burgers based on time, less time for a pink and more time for no pink. The terms do somewhat relate to the color but are more ways to describe less cooked and more cooked.”

rare.hamburgerOuch!  That’s scary. Shouldn’t their cook terms be related to a number of degrees, not a hue of red?

Unfortunately, they are not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many restaurants prepare and cook beef in ways that could lead to undercooking, and that about one-in-10 restaurant hamburgers are undercooked. Their recommendations are that establishments should measure the final temperature of ground beef using a thermometer or using standard cooking methods that always cook ground beef to 155°F for 15 second to prevent foodborne illness. FDA agrees.

Beef, even beef ground on-site, it not without risk. E. coli normally lives in the intestines of animals and the infectious dose is very low.  (According to BugCounter Don Schaffner dose response models for pathogenic E. coli indicate even a single cell holds the probability of causing illness.) E. coli on the outside of a  hunk of beef such as chuck, roast or steak can be mixed into the middle of a burger – the place that takes the longest to reach 155 degrees F and become safe.  Irradiation or cold pasteurization can reduce risk, but other food safety assurance steps must also be in place.

In the company’s discussion of their hamburger handling process, there is no mention of cross-contamination controls. Sanitation. Active managerial oversight. Strict supplier control. Microbial testing and certificates of analysis. Handwashing?

They did, however assure me that  “The FDA does allow for the sale of rare meat so long as you print warning about potential foodborne illness on your menu which we have.”  

True. But advisories and Disclaimers don’t make for a safer food product. Or negate an establishment’s responsibility to take the numerical temperature of food.   

Color is a lousy indicator.  Make safe food.  Stick it in.  Use a thermometer.

barfblog.Stick It In

 

 

Whole genome sequencing: US FDA wants food companies to hand over their pathogens

Investigations into foodborne illness are being radically transformed by whole genome sequencing, which federal officials say is enabling them to identify the source of an outbreak far more quickly and prevent additional cases.

whole.genome.sequencingPreviously, samples from sick patients were sent to state and federal labs, where disease detectives ran tests to see if the infections were caused by the same bug. When enough matches emerged, typically a dozen or so, epidemiologists interviewed sick people, looking for a common food that was causing the outbreak.

But the testing wasn’t definitive, and linking one case to another took time. “While all of this was going on, more contaminated product was getting out into the public,” said Dr. Steven Musser, deputy director for scientific operations at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Now, the FDA is building a network of state and federal labs equipped to map out the exact DNA sequence of strains of Listeria, Salmonella and other foodborne pathogens found in sick patients. These sequences are then uploaded to a public database housed at the National Institutes of Health. The technology can not only differentiate a pathogen from multiple related species, but can also show slight mutations within the same strain.

At the same time, the FDA has begun sequencing pathogens found during routine plant inspections and adding those to the database. One benefit of that, they say, is being able to quickly connect patients within an outbreak. Another is the potential to identify the source of an outbreak after just a few patients fall ill, shortening the time it takes to get tainted food off store shelves.

To increase the odds of a match, the FDA wants manufacturers to contribute samples of pathogens found during their own plant inspections. Some contamination is common in food plants. When it is found in the manufacturing facility, but not in food products, companies generally are required only to clean it up without recalling products.

But eliminating pathogens is tough, and convincing companies to offer up potentially incriminating evidence has been a hard sell, according to interviews with public health officials, food manufacturers and experts on recalls.