FoodHACCP Newsletter

Food Safety Job Openings

03/31. Quality Control Manager - Manitowoc, WI
03/31. Food Safety Compliance Officer – Elkridge, MD
03/31. Prod Mgr & HACCP Assistant – Calverton, NY
03/29. HACCP/BRC Coordinator – Rogers, AR
03/29. Quality Assurance Manager – Orem, UT
03/29. QA Superintendent – Boise, ID
03/27. Food Safety QA Technician – Denmark, WI
03/27. Quality Control Technician – Cheverly, MD
03/27. Food Safety Extension – Blacksburg, VA

04/03 2017 ISSUE:750

Beach Beat: Public’s right to know should trump trade secrets
Source :
BY CORAL BEACH (Apr 2, 2017)
ICYMI, as the texters say, the FDA finally came clean about a dirty food production operation, naming Dixie Dew Products Inc. as the manufacturer of soy-based goo marketed as an allergen-free alternative to peanut butter.
The revelation Friday evening came weeks after FDA inspectors found filthy conditions, insect infestation and broken food safety equipment at the Kentucky production plant. They went to check the plant on March 3 because little kids across the country were infected from with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that was found in unopened jars of soy nut butter produced by Dixie Dew.
The violations were immediately evident, and the outbreak victim list was growing, but the Food and Drug Administration waited four weeks to name the producer. In the meantime, individual companies that had used the soy paste in their branded products were left to initiate their own recalls and consumers were left in the dark.
How much faster would products have been recalled if FDA had made public the name of the manufacturer and its list of customers? We will never know.
What we do know is that the outbreak count climbed from 12 sick people in five states to 29 people in a dozen states in the four weeks between the initial outbreak announcement and the FDA’s move to go public.
Twenty-four of the 29 victims are children, according to the Friday update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The median age of the victims is 8. A dozen victims have required hospitalization and nine victims have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Why didn’t FDA reveal Dixie Dew as the manufacturer and use its considerable power to force all companies involved to immediately initiate recalls? Federal law protects “confidential corporate information” is the standard response from FDA officials.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of that refrain. It’s true that federal agencies can’t lobby Congress, but FDA should take a cue from the folks over at the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service who figured out how to get a rule change. The FSIS can and does collect and release retail distribution details and other information that helps consumers identify recalled meat and poultry products.
At least one member of Congress thinks its time for a change in the way FDA handles such situations. Representative Rosa Delauro, D-CT, praised FDA for shutting down Dixie Dew this past week, but called for the agency to do more.
“Not only did Dixie Dew fail to take action to prevent contamination of its products, we do not even know all of the names and locations of where the recalled products were sold,” DeLauro said in a news release.
“While the FDA made the right decision in shutting down the Dixie Dew plant, the agency should take another step forward and reverse its policy of withholding the names and locations of stores and schools where recalled food products are sold.
“As we have seen with Dixie Dew, it is irresponsible and insufficient to rely on the good faith of food corporations to provide all the necessary recall information. Americans deserve to know these details to ensure their health and safety.”
Research published in the March edition of the Journal of Environmental Health supports the argument for public disclosure.
Authored by a trio of food safety heavy hitters from academia — Benjamin Chapman of North Carolina State University, Maria Sol Erdozaim of Kansas State University, and Douglas Powell formerly of K-State and currently living and consulting in Australia — the special report on when to go public pulls together information from dozens of sources.
“The intent of this special report is to contribute to the discourse on public risk communication related to foodborne hazards, and to argue for the establishment of guidelines for determining what is timely, the information content of going-public messages, and to aid public health entities in protecting consumers’ health,” the researchers wrote.
Chapman and his fellow researchers examined numerous examples of foodborne illness outbreaks and how government responded and why. Some common denominators emerged in the answers to the “why” question:
Concern about public panic and/or information overload, which can lead to recall numbness;
Fear that the source of a pathogen could be misidentified, causing undeserved damage to specific companies or segments of industry, such as when FDA incorrectly identified domestic tomatoes as a source, later to discover that imported peppers were actually the cause of an outbreak; and
A lack of guidelines or procedures for determining when to go public, which encourages officials to wait longer to release information.
The researchers address each of these points and others, citing various government people and policies as well as previous research.
“There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload,” Chapman, Erdozaim and Powell found on the point of public panic.
“Good risk communication practice is to be open and transparent; withholding information, for whatever seemingly logical reason, denies consumers the opportunity to take measures to protect their health. The information might eventually leak out anyway, thereby undermining an organization’s credibility.”
It’s worth the time to read the rest of the Chapman, Erdozaim, Powell report, but for those who don’t have time, let me cut to the chase for you.
“Public health officials have a challenging job: it can be difficult to discern true signals about an emerging risk from random noise. But establishing some ground rules — and publicizing those rules — would help build public trust,” the trio of food safety researchers contend.
“We propose that communicators and public health organizations develop guidelines for public disclosure of risks based on the questions in (the table at right). … Communication is important for educating the public about steps that individuals can take to reduce the spread of infectious disease and to protect themselves.
“Not naming the source of an outbreak or giving recall information too late affects the public’s trust in agencies. Furthermore, when the agencies themselves do not have a standard procedure regarding when to name or not name implicated firms in an outbreak, it seems as though the agencies’ priority is the firm and not public health.”
Well said.

Listeria Monocytogenes Can Hide Inside Lettuce Leaves
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Mar 31, 2017)
A new research study from Purdue University that was published in the Journal of Food Protection has found that Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can hide inside the leaves of romaine lettuce. That suggests that traditional post-harvest sanitation practices “may not be sufficient to kill the potentially lethal pathogen.”
The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to recalled Dole salads last year was the sixth largest multistate food poisoning outbreak of 2016. That was the first Listeria outbreak linked to leafy greens, although that type of produce is  the most common culprit in food poisoning outbreak according to a National Institutes of Health study. Other Listeria monocytogenes food poisoning outbreaks have been linked to celery, cantaloupe, raw sprouts, and apples.
In that outbreak, 19 people in 9 states were sickened with listeriosis. Fourteen people were sickened in Canada. The Ohio Department of Agriculture tested a Dole brand Field Greens packaged salad purchased from a supermarket and isolated Listeria monocytogenes bacteria that was closely related, genetically, to isolates taken from ill persons.
In the study, Dr. Amanda Deering, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Food Science, showed that the bacteria can live within lettuce in every state of the plant growth process. The pathogenic bacteria can get into the plant through cracked seed coats, small tears in the root during germination, and damaged plant tissue. In fact, exposing the lettuce to bacteria can cause infection of the plant tissue in 30 minutes.
Deering said, “knowing this can happen, we need to keep it on our radar as we continue to follow good agricultural practices.” She added, “for immune-compromised consumers, it’s important to remember, that canned or cooked produce is better.”
After that Dole recall and outbreak, Deering, along with Dr. Haley Oliver, associate professor of food science, and Archana Shenoy, a graduate research assistant, investigated the persistence and internalization of Listeria in romaine lettuce. That product is the fastest growing crop in the U.S. in terms of production, export, and consumption.
Their research showed that Listeria bacteria can persist up to 60 days in romaine lettuce. And the bacteria was present throughout the plant tissue.
Listeria monocytogenes causes 1,600 cases of food poisoning in the United States every year. Ninety-nine percent of those cases are contracted through food. Produce had been considered a “low risk” food in association with this pathogenic bacteria, but the deadly 2011 listeriosis outbreak linked to Jensen Farms cantaloupe ended that stereotype. That outbreak was the second-most deadly bacterial foodborne outbreak in U.S. history.
Contamination of produce can take place in the field, from soil, irrigation water, runoff from farms, and improperly composted manure, and roaming wild animals. A recent study showed that up to 17.5% of produce fields are contamianted with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
Since the bacteria can get inside of the plant, they are not exposed to any sanitizer used during processing and packaging. And the study showed that a brief contamination period of 30 minutes can contaminate the plant and that contamination can persist for 60 days. The study is “limited to defined laboratory conditions that may not directly represent field conditions,” according to the paper, but “it demonstrates proof of concept.”

New food safety rules: Are you ready?
Source :
By (Mar 30, 2017)
The date for carriers to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rule is around the corner. The rule falls under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which passed in 2011 in response to listeria and salmonella outbreaks mainly stemming from the manufacturing, processing, and handling of food.
Jon Samson, executive director of the agricultural and food transporters conference for the American Trucking Assns., broke down FSMA and what carriers need to do to comply with the rules during a recent Spireon webinar.
The FDA finalized its new food safety rule in April 2016 to prevent food contamination during transportation. The rule requires those involved in transporting human and animal food – shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers – to follow best practices for sanitary transportation, such as properly refrigerating food, adequately cleaning vehicles between loads and properly protecting food during transportation.
Small businesses other than motor carriers that are not also shippers and/or receivers, employ fewer than 500 persons and motor carriers having less than $27.5 million in annual receipts have to comply with the new rules April 6, 2018, two years after the publication of the final rule. Other businesses that are not otherwise excluded from coverage have to comply one year after the publication of the final rule – April 2017.
The rule establishes requirements for ensuring food is properly refrigerated, that vehicles and equipment are properly cleaned and sanitized, and ensuring food is protected during transport. It does not, however, address food security, such as seals and locks, Samson noted.
“The proposed rule had several areas of concern,” he explained. “The FDA verbally committed to keeping this flexible and really understanding the processes in the industry, but when they initially proposed the rule, it didn’t quite match up with that. By the time we got to the final rule, we were mostly satisfied with what they wrote.”
 ::Exempt from the rule::
Shippers, receivers, or carriers engaged in food transportation operations that have less than $500,000 in average annual revenue
Transportation activities performed by a farm
Transportation of food that is transshipped through the United States to another country
Transportation of food that is imported for future export and that is neither consumed or distributed in the United States
Transportation of compressed food gases (e.g. carbon dioxide, nitrogen or oxygen authorized for use in food and beverage products), and food contact substances
Transportation of human food byproducts transported for use as animal food without further processing
Transportation of food that is completely enclosed by a container except a food that requires temperature control for safety
Transportation of live food animals, except molluscan shellfish
In order for vehicles and transportation equipment to comply, they:
Must be designed and made from material that can be adequately cleaned and sanitized. “One of the concerns we have is there is no definition for what is adequately cleaned and sanitized” Samson explained. “So as many as these requirements are, the discretion is up to the shipper to make that determination.”
Must be maintained in sanitary condition where the food will not become unsafe. For instance, broken pallets that could puncture the product might not be allowed in trailers.
Must be stored in a manner to prevent pests or contamination that could result in food becoming unsafe.
For TCS (time and temperature controlled food), equipment must be designed, maintained, equipped to provide proper temperature control.
In addition, protective measures must be taken to protect food from (cross) contamination by raw and non-food items. Samson mentioned that going forward, the FDA will offer a one-hour web-based training on the basics of the rule.
To prepare for the new rule, Kevin Boydstun, director of operations at Sharp Transportation, noted Sharp has been working to keep its employees educated to better comply with the rule. He explained Sharp has been ensuring managers and dispatchers get the necessary information out to the drivers, keeping tabs on temperatures, and planning ahead more.
Stressing the importance of all employees working together, Boydstun suggests:
Pay attention more to what is coming in and equipment needed.
Note whether a driver is experienced.
Ask whether the trailer needs to be washed prior to loading.
Let driver know what timeframe of pickup is. Plan to have enough time to wash out.
Monitor dropped load temp controls.
Communicate instructions to drivers.
Confirm loaded set/box temps as sent in from the driver. Double check setting vs. temperature range.
Monitor temperature reading while the load is in transit. Get with the driver if there are any discrepancies.
Notify inbound planners to make sure they know what it coming in and what to expect.
Monitor seal integrity. Making sure seal numbers are entered into the loaded, stop off empty calls.
He also noted the company offers web-based continuing education for drivers to stay up-to-date on rules and new regulations.
In addition, drivers:
Conduct pre-trip inspections, including reefer units.
Check trailer condition – air chute and door seals.
Are trained in reefer unit operations.
Inspect product prior to loading. Check for extra condensation and leaking.
Notify dispatch if backed in for an extended amount of time loading/unloading.
Reefer tank fuel levels and additives.
Check box temp every four hours or when stopped.
Boydstun also stressed the importance of preventive maintenance and repairing and replacing equipment when needed.
“It gives us peace of mind knowing that our units are running at the top specs they can,” he said. “They say if you got it, a truck brought it. With FSMA, I want to make sure I didn’t bring anything that made you and your family sick. These are some of the things we try to do as a corporation for society.”




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There can be no compromise on food safety
Source :
By (Mar 30, 2017)
Our reliance on imports makes food scares inevitable from time to time. That in turn makes a robust food quality surveillance mechanism all the more important. But the controversy over contaminated meat from Brazil shows that there is still much room for improvement.
This was evident in the passive response from our officials in charge of food safety. They appeared to have little idea about the scale of the problem when the scandal first broke in South America. Only after some countries had imposed full or partial bans on Brazilian meat and poultry did we follow suit. Hong Kong’s ban was followed by a recall after a few days, and was later scaled down to covering only produce from the 21 meat-packing plants under investigation.
Understandably, traders and consumers are confused. It makes little sense to ban imports but allow meat from dubious sources to go on sale in the market in the first place. Indeed, as soon as the ban was announced, restaurants and supermarkets rightly took the initiative to remove Brazilian meat and poultry from their menus and shelves.
Brazil has shut down production at three of the plants and suspended the export licences of all 21 after police alleged several producers had bribed inspectors to certify meat that was either rotten or tainted with bacteria. Up to 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s frozen meat comes from Brazil. It is a relief to learn that none of the samples tested here have shown any irregularities so far. But as a handful of companies that have exported meat to Hong Kong are still being investigated by the Brazilian authorities, it is not time to lower our guard.
Given the huge number of food items that pass through our borders every day, random checks on quality and compliance are probably the best we can do. That said, there should be a well-established response mechanism when things go wrong. This includes releasing accurate information to the public, keeping track of the food items imported and, when necessary, taking resolute action to protect public health. Officials should reflect on the inadequacies in our existing mechanism and strengthen it further.

What six things a Food Safety Lawyer does not eat
Source :
By BILL MARLER (Mar 29, 2017)
Unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and packaged juices. Unpasteurized milk, sometimes called “raw” milk, can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites. Between 1998 and 2011, there were 148 food poisoning outbreaks linked to raw milk and raw milk products in the US—and keep in mind that comparatively few people in the country ever consume these products, so 148 outbreaks is nothing to ignore. As for unpasteurized packaged juices, one of Marler’s earliest cases was the 1996 E. coli outbreak from unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice. As a result, he won’t go near raw milk or juice. “There’s no benefit big enough to take away the risk of drinking products that can be made safe by pasteurization,” he says.
Raw sprouts. Uncooked and lightly cooked sprouts have been linked to more than 30 bacterial outbreaks (mostly of Salmonella and E. coli) in the US since mid-1990s. As recently as 2014, salmonella from bean sprouts sent 19 people to the hospital. All types of sprouts—including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts—can spread infection, which is caused by bacterial contamination of their seeds. “There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination,” Marler says. “Those are products that I just don’t eat at all.” He did add that he does eat them if they’re cooked.
Meat that isn’t well-done. Marler orders his burgers well-done. “The reason ground products are more problematic and need to be cooked more thoroughly is that any bacteria that’s on the surface of the meat can be ground inside of it,” Marler says. “If it’s not cooked thoroughly to 160°F throughout, it can cause poisoning by E. coli and Salmonella and other bacterial illnesses.” As for steaks, needle tenderizing—a common restaurant practice in which the steak is pierced with needles or sliced with knives to break down the muscle fibers and make it more tender—can also transfer bugs from the surface to the interior of the meat. If a restaurant does this (Marler asks), he orders his steak well-done. If the restaurant doesn’t, he’ll opt for medium-well.
Prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables. “I avoid these like the plague,” Marler says. Why? The more a food is handled and processed, the more likely it is to become tainted. “We’ve gotten so used to the convenience of mass-produced food—bagged salad and boxed salads and precut this and precut that,” Marler says. “Convenience is great but sometimes I think it isn’t worth the risk.” He buys unwashed, uncut produce in small amounts and eats it within three to four days to reduce the risk for Listeria, a deadly bug that grows at refrigerator temps.
Raw or undercooked eggs. You may remember the Salmonella epidemic of the 1980s and early ’90s that was linked mainly to eggs. If you swore off raw eggs back then, you might as well stick with it. The most recent salmonella outbreak from eggs, in 2010, caused roughly 2,000 reported cases of illness. “I think the risk of egg contamination is much lower today than it was 20 years ago for salmonella, but I still eat my eggs well-cooked,” Marler says.
Raw oysters and other raw shellfish. Marler says that raw shellfish—especially oysters—have been causing more foodborne illness lately. He links this to warming waters, which produce more microbial growth. “Oysters are filter feeders, so they pick up everything that’s in the water,” he explains. “If there’s bacteria in the water it’ll get into their system, and if you eat it you could have trouble. I’ve seen a lot more of that over the last five years than I saw in the last 20 years. It’s simply not worth the risk.”
William “Bill” Marler is a nationally recognized American personal injury lawyer and food safety advocate. He is the managing partner of Marler Clark, a Seattle, Washington, based law firm that specializes in foodborne illness cases.
First published at Copyright © 2016 by Boardroom Inc., 281 Tresser Blvd., Stamford, Connecticut 06901-3229.
2015 – Profile in Obsession: Bill Marler, By Naomi Tomky March 24, 2015
2015 – The New Yorker – A Bug in the System
The New Yorker, Wil S. Hylton, February 2, 2015.
2014 – Q&A: Food Safety Lawyer Bill Marler on What Not to Eat
The National Law Journal, Interview with Jenna Greene, November 3, 2014.
2012 – Bill Marler, Attorney, Blogger, and Food Safety Advocate, Talks Turkey (Or Spinach, Rather)
Miami New Times, Interview with Ily Goyanes, November 2.
2012 – Bill Marler Interview, Part Two: His Most Difficult Cases and Lobbying Congress
Miami New Times, Interview with Ily Goyanes, November 14.
2012 – Profiles in Public Health Law: Interview with William “Bill” Marler CDC Public Health Law News, July.
2012 – Food Safety Lawyer Bill Marler On Sprouts, Raw Milk, and Why “Local” Isn’t Always Safer, Hanna Brooks Olsen, March 5.
2011 – Listeria outbreak draws Seattle lawyer to battle
Associated Press, Shannon Dininny, October 9.
2011 – Food-Borne Illness Attorney: Top Foods to Avoid
ABC News, Neal Karlinsky, September 29.
2011 – How to Keep Food Free of Salmonella: Lawsuits
The Atlantic, Barry Estabrook, August 31.
2011 – More Stomach-Churning Facts about the E. Coli Outbreak
New York Times, Mark Bittman, June 8.
2011 – Bill Marler: A Personal Injury Attorney and More
The Xemplar, Nicole Black, June 1.
2011 – Good Food Hero: Bill Marler, Food Safety Attorney
Good Food World, Gail Nickel-Kailing, May 23.
2011- Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat.
Inspire Books, Jeff Benedict, May 15
2011 – New Book Chronicles Islander Marler’s Work.
Bainbride Island Review, Connie Mears, May 13.
2010 – Food Safety Lawyer Puts His Money Where Your Mouth Is
AOL News, Andrew Schneider, September 29
2009 – Food Safety Lawyer’s Wish: Put Me Out of Business
Seattle Times, Maureen O’Hagan, November 23
2009 – WSU Discourse on Food Safety, Courtesy Seattle Lawyer
Kitsap Sun, Tristan Baurick,  August 29
2009 – When Food Sickens, He Heads for Courthouse
Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Matt McKinney, June 24
2009 –  Bill Marler, The Food-Safety Litigator
Culinate, Miriam Wolf, April
2009 – Food Fight:Bill Marler’s Beef (PDF)
Washington Law & Politics, David Volk, May
2009 – Candidate for Top FSIS Job talks E. coli Testing, Irradiation, Education
The Meating Place, Ann Bagel Storck, February 6
2009 – Five Minutes with Bill Marler, Well Known Lawyer, Food Safety Activist
CattleNetwork, Chuck Jolley, February 5
2009 – Heath Surveillance the Key to Fresh Produce
The Packer, Tom Karst, February 3
2008 – Seattle Food Contamination Expert in China as Tainted Milk Sickens Thousands of Kids
Seattle Health Examiner, September 23
2008 –  E. Coli Lawyer Is Busier Than Ever
Associated Press, February 4
2007 –  Legally Speaking: The Food Poisoning Lawyer
The Southeast Texas Record, John G. Browning, November 20
2007 –  The Nation’s Leading Food-borne Illness Attorney Tells All
Washington State Magazine, Hannelore Sudermann, August
2007 –  Back to Court: Burst of E. coli Cases Returns Jack in the Box Litigator to the Scene
Meat and Poultry News, Steve Bjerklie, June 8
2007 – Food Fight
Portland Oregonian, Alex Pulaski, March
2007 –  Mr. Food Illness Esquire
QSR Magazine, Fred Minnick, February
2006 –  Seattle Attorney Dominates Food-Borne Illness Litigation
KPLU, October 20
2006 –  How a Tiny Law Firm Made Hay Out of Tainted Spinach
The Wall Street Journal, Heather Won Tesoriero and Peter Lattman, September 27
2005 – Bill Marler – Education Holds Key in Tainted Food Fight
King County Bar Association Bar Bulletin, Ross Anderson, November
2001 –  THE INSIDE STORY: How 11 Schoolkids Got $4.75 Million in E. coli Lawsuit, Bryan Salvage, March 7
2001 –  Hammer Time: Preparation Pays When Disputes Escalate to Lawsuits
Meat & Poultry Magazine, David Hendee
2001 –  For Seattle Attorney, A Bacterium Brings Riches—and Enemies
The Wall Street Journal, Rachel Zimmerman
2001 –  The Bug That Ate The Burger
Los Angeles Times, Emily Green, June
1999 –  Courting Publicity, Attorney Makes Safe Food His Business
Seattle Post, Maggie Leung, September 7

Efficacy of Sulfur Dioxide and Sulfur Discs against Wine-Spoilage Yeasts: In Vivo and In Vitro Trials
Source :
By Aguilar Solis Maria de Lourdes Alejandra, Ph.D., David M. Gadoury, Ph.D., and Randy W. Worobo, Ph.D.
Winemaking involves the multiplication and metabolism of numerous yeasts and bacteria in grape juice. After fermentation, the fermented juice is stabilized by the addition of sulfites (sulfur dioxide) to protect against refermentation or the growth of deleterious microorganisms that could spoil the wine through production of undesirable flavors and aromas.[1] Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is an antioxidant and antimicrobial,[2] and it is also used to sanitize and store empty barrels. SO2 has not been systematically evaluated to sanitize wine cooperage, and current knowledge of the use of SO2 is largely based upon studies performed in wine, where carbonyl compounds, sugars and other uncontrolled conditions may confound its observed antimicrobial effects. Glucose present in wine is one of the main SO2-binding compounds. Moreover, SO2 forms additional compounds with aldehydes and, to a lesser extent, with ketones.[3] SO2 exists in equilibrium in aqueous solutions between molecular SO2 (SO2•H2O), bisulfite (HSO3-) and sulfite (SO2-3) species, but this equilibrium is strictly dependent on pH.[2,4] It is generally believed that the molecular sulfur species is the antimicrobial form of SO2, which is predominant at low pH. Because SO2•H2O does not have a charge, the molecule enters the cell and undergoes rapid pH-driven dissociation at cytoplasmic pH (generally near 6.5) to yield bisulfite and sulfite. As the intracellular concentration of molecular SO2 decreases due to the internal equilibrium, more molecular SO2 enters the cell, further increasing intracellular concentrations.[4]
Oak barrels have been commonly used for aging wines and spirits due to their positive effects on the finished product that include increased color stability, spontaneous clarification and desirable complex aromas.[5] However, spoilage sometimes occurs during aging, or even after bottling, due to the continued growth or residual secondary metabolites of contaminant microorganisms, such as the yeast Dekkera/Brettanomyces, causing widespread losses in the wine industry due to degraded wine quality.[1] The growth of yeasts belonging to Dekkera⁄Brettanomyces during the production of red wine, especially during aging, can seriously affect the organoleptic quality of the finished product. These yeasts grow slowly during wine aging in wooden barrels, particularly when the SO2 concentration is low (molecular SO2 < 0.5 mg/L), the pH is high (> 3.8) and the temperature is above 15 °C.[6] Although barrel disinfection methods are becoming more sophisticated (water vapor, ozonization, etc.), the shape and microstructure of wooden barrels offer undesirable microorganisms niches that provide a great degree of protection from direct contact by sanitizers.[7] It is now generally accepted that control of Dekkera/Brettanomyces spp. cannot be achieved by mere cleaning or incomplete sanitization of all cellar equipment but demands much more stringent microbiological control and judicious utilization of sulfite or dimethyl dicarbonate.[8] The ability of yeast strains to survive high alcohol concentrations allows them to carry out refermentation in barrels or bottles, thereby modifying the alcohol/sugar balance and the aroma of the wine, reducing its quality. This process is mainly carried out by Zygosaccharomyces bailii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, due to their tolerance of high concentrations of alcohol and SO2[9] and their survival of primary alcoholic fermentation.[10] The presence of yeasts of the genus Zygosaccharomyces, in particular Z. bailii, is well known in wineries producing sweet or sparkling wines using juice concentrate or sulfited grape juice. Their high level of resistance to preservatives, particularly in Z. bailii, means that addition of high, but sublethal, doses decreases the incidence of competing microorganisms, making the survival of resistant strains even more problematic.[8] To reveal more precise indications of the true antimicrobial efficacy of SO2, we conducted in vitro experiments in which no other compound was added other than SO2 in the form of potassium metabisulfite (KMB). SO2 was also evaluated using 5-g sulfur discs in wine barrels (in vivo experiments). The purpose of the study was to test SO2 at three pH levels to assess its efficacy against wine-spoilage yeasts and then assess the use of sulfur discs (~5 g) in naturally contaminated barrels held for 3 and 6 weeks. The results from these experiments will serve as a guide to more efficient sanitization practices using SO2 as a sanitizer.
Three isolates of Dekkera/Brettanomyces bruxellensis (2080, CE149 and CE261), three isolates of S. cerevisiae (CE78, CE9 and CE81) and an isolate of Z. bailii (4A1) were obtained from the Department of Food Science collection at Cornell University.
Preparation of starter culture and inoculation
The yeasts, stored at -80 °C in 15% glycerol (w/v), were revitalized and maintained on YPD agar. All strains were grown until stationary phase (108 CFU/mL) or at least 106 CFU/mL (growth under agitation at 200 rpm, 30 °C). The growth time varied according to the strain. Each strain was grown in YPD broth adjusted to different pH levels (3.0, 3.2 and 3.4) with 1 M HCl and/or 1 M NaOH. Once the cultures reached 108 or 106 CFU/mL, the target inoculum was verified via a viability assessment. A 1-mL volume of culture was placed in sterile Eppendorf tubes and centrifuged (4,500 rpm, room temperature); the supernatant was discarded and resuspended in 1 mL McIlvaine buffer[11] at the different pH levels stated above. A 1-mL culture was inoculated into 99 mL McIlvaine buffer at the different pH levels mentioned above, reaching a concentration of 104–106 CFU/mL. Analyses were performed in triplicate.
Preparation of KMB solution
The solutions were prepared before each experiment by dissolving the required amount of KMB in McIlvaine buffer at the different pH values. The final concentrations of KMB were 0 and 300 mg/L. Each KMB solution was spiked with 1 mL cells to achieve a final volume of 100 mL and plugged with rubber stoppers.
Sampling and microbiological isolation
Each flask was aseptically sampled at different times. The flasks were incubated in a water bath at 30 °C with no agitation and sampled at 0, 15, 30, 60 and 90 minutes. At each sampling time, 1 mL was taken and properly diluted in 0.1% (w/v) buffered peptone water, immediately plated in duplicate onto YPD agar and incubated at 30 °C for 48–72 hours for Z. bailii and S. cerevisiae, and up to 3–4 weeks for D./B. bruxellensis. When necessary, direct plating from the flask was also performed to increase the level-of-detection threshold. The volume plated was 100 µL.
Microbiological enumeration
Plates were enumerated for total microbial count. The counts were averaged and expressed as log values. The log reduction was then calculated for each strain and expressed as log values. Each inactivation experiment and controls were performed in triplicate for each strain.
Sulfur disc treatment of barrels
The 20 donated barrels used for this study were identified with Dekkera/Brettanomyces by the wineries that donated them. These naturally contaminated barrels were split in two groups of 10 barrels each to identify both Brettanomyces and general yeast populations and were then treated with sulfur discs. Each barrel had an identification number. The treatments were conducted for 3 and 6 weeks. Briefly, 7 L distilled water were added to each barrel, before and after burning the sulfur discs inside the barrels. The barrels were rolled several times to enhance the contact of water with the inner surface of the barrel, stored bung side up for 24 hours and then sampled before and after burning the sulfur discs. Water samples were collected in sterile bottles. The first portion of the water was discarded to “rinse” the bunghole (outer portion of the bung), and then 70% ethanol was sprayed around the bunghole. The samples were placed at 4 °C until analysis. The samples were analyzed to determine the initial and final yeast populations, either by filtration using discs or pertinent dilutions of the samples, since the microbial loads varied for each barrel. If samples needed to be diluted, 0.1% (w/v) buffered peptone water was used.
The samples were divided into two groups and filtered through cellulose. The results of the two filters were then averaged. The maximum volume filtered was 100 mL, and the results were calculated as CFU/100 mL and then transformed into log10. The cellulose filters were aseptically placed onto WL and YPD agars. WL agar was used to detect D./B. bruxellensis and incubated at 30 °C for up to 3–4 weeks; colonies that grew before 3 days were discarded. Incubation time was also used to demonstrate growth, as nothing that grows before 3 days in WL with cycloheximide is D./B. bruxellensis. The WL agar contained 10 mg/L cycloheximide to allow for selection of D./B. bruxellensis (dissolved in 50% ethanol and filter-sterilized), 150 mg/L biphenyl to prevent the growth of mold, 30 mg/L chloramphenicol to prevent the growth of lactic acid bacteria and 25 mg/L kanamycin sulfate to inhibit the growth of acetic acid bacteria. YPD agar was used to detect general yeast populations and was incubated at 30 °C for 48–72 hours. The YPD agar contained all of the above selective agents except cycloheximide.
Statistical analysis
The reductions in yeast were calculated from the initial concentration of yeast cells (target inoculum) at time zero minus the last concentration of yeast at time 90 minutes for the in vitro experiments. All experiments, including the controls, were performed in triplicate. The analysis used was a three-way analysis of variance, and simple comparisons were performed using the Tukey’s test (P < 0.05). For reduction of Brettanomyces and general yeast populations using sulfur discs, a Fisher’s exact test was performed.
Results and Discussion
Effects of KMB on strains
Sulfite acts as a powerful antimicrobial agent and is highly toxic to most non-Saccharomyces yeasts.[12] In this work, we studied the effects of pH at a high concentration of KMB using a matrix with no SO2-binding compounds commonly found in wines. At pHs 3.0 and 3.2, total log reductions were observed for Z. bailii. However, at pH 3.4, there was no reduction, likely due to the decreased availability of SO2, which is the germicidal form of the sanitizer (Figure 1). Divol et al.[13] found that 200 mg/L SO2 did not affect the capacity of Z. bailii cells to grow on a solid medium, but did not mention pH as a factor, which has an important influence on the antimicrobial effect of SO2.
For strain 2080 (D./B. bruxellensis) (Figure 2), a 1.9-log reduction was achieved at pH 3.0. At pHs 3.2 and 3.4, there were log reductions of only 0.5 and 0.3, respectively. With regard to strain CE149 (D./B. bruxellensis) (Figure 3), there was a 3-log reduction at pH 3.0, and 2.5- and 2.4-log reductions at pHs 3.2 and 3.4, respectively. CE261 (D./B. bruxellensis) (Figure 4) was reduced 1.78 log units at pH 3.0, and 1.2 and 1.0 logs at pHs 3.2 and 3.4, respectively. Interestingly, reports about the effects of SO2 on D./B. bruxellensis inactivation are often contradictory. Some authors refer its sensitivity to values higher than 30 mg/L SO2, while others state it should be regarded as resistant and growth has been reported when values greater than 30 mg/L SO2 are used. This controversy probably arises from differences in experimental conditions and strain behavior variability.[14] Our results showed that 300 mg/L KMB was not sufficient to reduce the yeasts tested to undetectable levels.
At pH 3.0, only strain CE78 (S. cerevisiae) was reduced 1.0 log10 unit, and at pHs 3.2 and 3.4, there were reductions of only 0.7 and 0.5 log10 units, respectively (Figure 5). The two S. cerevisiae strains CE81 and CE9 were reduced only 0.2 and 0.1 log10 units, respectively, at pH 3.0 (Figures 6 and 7). No significant differences were found for either strain when three different pHs were compared using either 0 or 300 mg/L KMB, since we observed that KMB did not cause noticeable reductions in either strain. In fact, the effect of the sanitizer was expected to be negligible for S. cerevisiae strains. In reality, S. cerevisiae strains could be considered as controls since they are generally recognized as being sulfite-resistant yeasts. For S. cerevisiae, differences in resistance have been attributed to production of compounds, particularly acetaldehyde, that bind sulfite to form α-hydroxysulfonates.15 Indeed, S. cerevisiae strains produce relatively high levels of acetaldehyde.[16] However, the study of production of sulfite-binding compounds is beyond the scope of this study.
Reduction of Brettanomyces and general yeast populations using sulfur discs
The 6-week treatments were shown to be highly effective in decreasing both Brettanomyces and general yeast populations (Tables 1 and 2, respectively) with the exception of only one barrel that presented reminiscent yeast populations after the application of sulfur discs. Three barrels of general yeast populations from the 3-week treatment had reminiscent populations of yeast after treatment. The reminiscent populations of yeasts in some barrels after treatment with sulfur discs can be attributed to an incomplete burning of the sulfur discs, since data showed that there were barrels with higher initial microbial loads that had total elimination or undetectable levels of microorganisms, and others that had fewer microorganisms and did not have a total elimination. No statistical differences were found between the 3- and 6-week treatments for both Brettanomyces and general yeast populations, suggesting that the level of disinfection was the same. SO2 rings used and held for 3 or 6 weeks were sufficient to decrease the microbial loads to undetectable levels in the majority of the barrels. However, several variables can influence treatment effectiveness when microbial elimination is taken into consideration, that is, the amount of oxygen consumed inside the barrel, the initial microbial load, the presence of debris or residues of organic matter and how much of the sulfur disc was burned.
In this study, we considered the use of a noninterfering matrix to be an important variable to prove the maximum efficacy of SO2 whether in solution or in the headspace of a 225-L barrel. The highly variable results found in the literature make it difficult to precisely define an optimal protocol for the use of SO2 as a surface sanitizer in wineries. When used in solution, SO2 provides relative efficacy toward the strains and initial microbial concentration levels presented here. This fact is of substantial importance for winemakers when SO2 is to be used in the liquid form at a specific pH. However, under laboratory conditions, SO2 was under no other conditions other than the ones encountered in the barrel. This should be considered when sanitization protocols are going to be achieved. The lack of a systematic approach to evaluating SO2 in common protocols of winery sanitization has resulted in the generalized use of certain protocols that might not be applicable to all the surfaces in wineries. High microbial loads were used under laboratory conditions, representing the worst-case scenario of barrel contamination. However, when we extrapolated this same approach under winery conditions, we realized that the use of SO2 as a gas, although effective, was only challenged with up to 103 CFU/mL for general yeast populations and up to 108 CFU/mL for Brettanomyces populations. This should be taken into consideration by winemakers since microbial loads in naturally contaminated barrels may vary according to their previous sanitization practices.
Winemakers must keep in mind that prevention is more effective than correction. Presanitization practices (rinsing at the right temperatures to avoid thermally adhering debris on the surface) and the correct concentration of SO2 that is effective for the surface to be sanitized are the best approaches when optimal sanitization is desired. In general, winemakers and the wine industry should consider reassessing their practices in terms of the use of scientifically validated information and utilize it to protect their wine from future contamination.
This work was supported by CONACYT-Mexico, federal formula multi-state project under grant NC-1023 and Cornell University Research Travel Awards. The authors thank the industry donors at Constellation Brands, California. Some experimental details were omitted for brevity; please contact the authors for more information.
Aguilar Solis Maria de Lourdes Alejandra, Ph.D., is a technical compliance specialist who works in the wine industry.
David M. Gadoury, Ph.D., is a senior research associate in the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.
Randy W. Worobo, Ph.D., is an associate professor of food science and microbiologist in the Department of Food Science, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.
1. Lustrato, G et al. 2010. “Inactivation of Wine Spoilage Yeasts Dekkera bruxellensis Using Low Electric Current Treatment (LEC).” J Appl Microbiol 109:594–604.
2. Usseglio Tomasset, L. 1992. “Properties and Use of Sulphur Dioxide.” Food Addit Contam 9:399–404.
3. King, AD Jr. et al. 1981. “Factors Affecting Death of Yeast by Sulfur Dioxide.” J Food Prot 44:92–97.
4. Fugelsang, KC and CG Edwards. 2007. “Managing Microbial Growth,” in Wine Microbiology: Practical Applications and Procedures, eds. Fugelsang, KC and CG Edwards (New York: Springer Science Business Media), 66–67.
5. Rodriguez Rodriguez, P and E Gomez Plaza. 2011. “Effect of Volume and Toast Level of French Oak Barrels (Quercus petraea L.) on Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Characteristics.” Am J Enol Viticult 62:359–365.
6. Benito, S et al. 2009. “A Method for Estimating Dekkera⁄Brettanomyces Populations in Wines.” J Appl Microbiol 106:1743–1751.
7. Suarez, R et al. 2007. “The Production of Ethylphenols in Wine by Yeasts of the Genera Brettanomyces and Dekkera: A Review.” Food Chem 102:10–21.
8. Loureiro, V and M Malfeito-Ferreira. 2003. “Spoilage Yeasts in the Wine Industry.” Int J Food Microbiol 86:23–50.
9. Salinas, F et al. 2009. “Taqman Real-Time PCR for the Detection and Enumeration of Saccharomyces cerevisiae in Wine.” Food Microbiol 26:328–33.
10. Divol, B et al. 2006. “Genetic Characterization of Strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Responsible for Refermentation in Botrytis-Affected Wines.” J Appl Microbiol 100:516–526.
11. Dawson, RMC et al. 1986. Data for Biochemical Research (Oxford, UK: Oxford Science Publications).
12. Mendoza, LM et al. 2009. “Influence of Wine-Related Physicochemical Factors on the Growth and Metabolism of Non-Saccharomyces and Saccharomyces Yeasts in Mixed Culture.” J Indust Microbiol Biotechnol 36:229–237.
13. Divol, B et al. 2005. “Effectiveness of Dimethyldicarbonate to Stop Alcoholic Fermentation in Wine.” Food Microbiol 22:169–178.
14. Barata, A et al. 2008. “Survival Patterns of Dekkera bruxellensis in Wines and Inhibitory Effect of Sulfur Dioxide.” Int J Food Microbiol 121:201–207.
15. Pilkington, BJ and AH Rose. 1988. “Reactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Zygosaccharomyces bailii to Sulphite.” J Gen Microbiol 134:2823–2830.
16. Romano, P et al. 1994. “Acetaldehyde Production in Saccharomyces cerevisiae Wine Yeasts.” FEMS Microbiol Lett 118:213–218.

Cookbooks' Missing Ingredient? Food Safety
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By Sara G. Miller, Staff Writer (Mar 28, 2017)
Cookbooks may be leaving out a crucial step in recipes: food safety. The vast majority of recipes found in popular cookbooks offer little useful advice to keep you from getting sick, a new study finds.
In a review of nearly 1,500 recipes from popular cookbooks, researchers found that only 123 recipes, or about 8 percent, mentioned cooking meat to a specific temperature.
"Cookbooks tell people how to cook," but the researchers wondered "whether they were telling people to cook in a way that could affect the risk of contracting foodborne illness," Ben Chapman, a professor of food safety at North Carolina State University and the study's senior author, said in a statement. [Top 7 Germs in Food That Make You Sick]
Previous research has suggested that in the U.S., up to 3.5 million cases of foodborne illnesses result from improperly cooking meat or other animal proteins, according to the study, which was published March 17 in the British Food Journal.
In the study, the researchers reviewed recipes in cookbooks that had been on The New York Times best-sellers list between September 2013 and January 2014. They examined recipes for cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, looking for several factors that impact food safety, including the internal temperature recommended for the meat. They also kept an eye out for common "food-safety myths" as they read the recipes — for example, advice that you should wash raw chicken in the sink (you shouldn't).
They found that some recipes recommended an internal temperature for meat that was incorrect: Of the 123 recipes that mentioned a temperature, 34 recipes (or about 28 percent) recommended cooking meat to temperatures that were too low to kill bacteria or parasites, according to the study. And 27 of the recipes (about 22 percent) didn't bother recommending that the chef use a meat thermometer, the researchers found.
For example, several chicken recipes instructed home chefs to cook the chicken to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71.1 degrees Celsius), rather than 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.9 degrees Celsius), which is what food safety experts recommend. In some instances, the recipes said that the chicken's internal temperature would continue to increase after the chicken was removed from the heat; however, no studies back this up, the researchers wrote.
Pork recipes were the most likely to include a specific temperature to cook the meat to, according to the study. Ground-beef recipes were the least likely to include an internal temperature, and instead, those recipes often told readers to evaluate doneness by looking at the color of the meat or the color of its juices, the researchers found.
And although egg recipes did include correct temperatures, they rarely told readers to use a thermometer, the study found.
Other indicators
Although almost every recipe in the study included directions to use some indicator to determine whether the animal protein had been cooked thoroughly, in many cases, these indicators aren't backed up by scientific studies, the researchers said.
For example, the most common indicator that a recipe was done was cooking time, according to the study. But cooking time can be "particularly unreliable, because so many factors affect how long it takes to cook something: the size of the dish being cooked, how cold it was before going in the oven, differences in cooking equipment and so on," lead study author Katrina Levine, an agricultural and human sciences researcher at North Carolina State University, said in a statement. [7 Foods You Can Overdose On]
Internal cooking temperatures, on the other hand, are "based on extensive research, targeting the most likely [germs] found in each food," Levine said.
In some cases, recipes included two recommendations that contradicted each other — for example, "Cook the turkey for 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit."
Other unreliable indicators included the color or texture of the meat, or the instruction to cook until "simmering," the researchers found. In some cases, unusual language was used to explain doneness, such as "meltingly," "soft curds" or simply "totally done," the researchers said.
Avoiding cross-contamination
Very few of the recipes included advice to avoid cross-contamination, which occurs when germs from one of the foods in the recipe is transferred to something else, according to the study.
For example, only 29 recipes recommended using separate or clean cutting boards, utensils and dishes for raw and cooked foods, the researchers found. And only 12 recipes recommended that people wash their hands after touching raw animal protein.
Several recipes, the researchers noted, instructed people to wash raw poultry— a practice that can actually spread germs, rather than wash them away. Germs are spread because the water can splatter them around the sink and to other surfaces in the kitchen.
Originally published on Live Science.

Best Practices for ISO 17025 Accreditation: Preparing for a Food Laboratory Audit (Part I)
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By Joy Dell’Aringa (Mar 27, 2017)
An increasing number of food testing laboratories are seeking accreditation to the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard. This growth is chiefly due to regulatory implications, customer requirements, and trade organization recommendations and is seen across laboratory segments: third-party contract laboratories, private in-house laboratories, and government laboratories. ISO 17025 is the most common standard in the food testing industry and sets the guideline for “Laboratories Performing Microbiological and Chemical Analysis of Food and Pharmaceuticals”. Accreditation is known generally as a third-party attestation related to a laboratory, which conveys formal demonstration of competency that implies a reliable and consistent level of quality across an operation for a well-defined parameter of tests, often referred to as the “Field of Testing”. There are several qualified organizations that accredit laboratories to the standard; these organizations are referred to as Accrediting Bodies and are responsible for assessing facilities for conformity to a given ISO standard.
Audit Preparation Guidance
Initial Accreditation: Considerations & Preparation
When a laboratory initially entertains applying for accreditation, several factors should be considered. The cost and time commitment required to become initially conformant, and the on-going resources required to maintain conformity should be thoroughly examined in an overall benefit analysis prior to applying for accreditation. Management should be fully aware of the investment and perpetual commitment of becoming an accredited facility. Accrediting Bodies (ABs) provide resources and literature that can help guide laboratories through the initial audit-preparation phase. However, creating the systematic application of these guidelines that balances the quality and operational objectives of the organization are unique from laboratory to laboratory. Simply put: There is no cookie-cutter approach to accreditation.
Consultant Considerations
Q Laboratories in Cincinnati, OH first embarked on the path to ISO 17025 accreditation in 2009. James Agin, director of regulatory compliance at Q Laboratories and member of the A2LA Laboratory Accreditation Council took the lead on preparing for the initial assessment eight years ago. Q Laboratories was initially unfamiliar with the process, so they hired a consultant who was also an assessor to walk them through the process. “We took about four to five months with a consultant,” says Agin,. “In addition to creating the necessary systems, we gathered the troops and did a deep training on what ISO 17025 is, why we were pursuing it, and why it was important to our business.” The Q Laboratory team created a deep sense of ownership during the education and training process from the supervisors to the bench analysts, which they credit to their ongoing success years later. Erin Crowley, chief scientific officer at Q Laboratories suggests new labs consider hiring a consultant to ease them through the process and get them audit-ready. “If you’re not accustomed to having certain systems in place, a consultant can provide clarity and help initiate processes,” says Crowley. “Having an open forum with an expert helped give our entire team confidence.”
A consultant can streamline the initial process and help avoid some of the pitfalls in creating a robust quality management system for the first time. Tim Osborne, senior director of training services at A2LA offers advice for organizations when vetting a consultant. “While certainly not required, a qualified consultant may be a good asset to have in your quiver,” says Osborne. “Look for industry references and pay close attention to involvement in the industry outside of its own laboratory. Does this person work for an accrediting body? What are the areas of analytical expertise? Does this person also provide training for an accrediting body? If so, it is likely the consultant will offer the quality of services you need to be successful.” It is important to note that assessors and consultants should be upfront with the accrediting body to avoid conflict of interest issues during the actual assessment. Impartiality is critical within the assessment process.
Application Process
Accrediting bodies publish their own “readiness” documents. Laboratories seeking accreditation should request an itemized guide that walks the organization through each phase of the process. The following is a general outline:
Obtain copy of ISO standard (17025, 17065, 17020, etc.). Review any specific requirements relevant to your field; these are generally available in a checklist format allowing the laboratory to prepare through an internal audit process.
Determine estimated costs with the accrediting body
Obtain a copy of the accrediting body s assessor checklist. This usually has to be completed as part of application process
Prepare the intended draft scope of accreditation (outlining, specific tests/test methods, calibration parameters/ranges, certification schemes)
Implement the management system, and ensure personnel are aware and accept the content
Perform an internal audit to verify compliance with the conformity assessment standard requirements, accrediting body requirements, your own management system requirements, and applicable technical requirements
Perform a management review
Foreign applicants may need to translate supporting application documents to English
Identify one specific individual to be responsible for accreditation efforts and interactions with the accrediting body. Identify the “quality manager” who is in charge of the management system
Obtain, prepare, and submit the application for accreditation to the accrediting body
Once the initial assessment is complete and the final response and corrections to any deficiencies is in, the laboratory will be reviewed and considered for accreditation through the accrediting body. When the decision is made in favor of accreditation, the laboratory will receive their accreditation certificate, which will correspond to a specific location and set of tests (commonly referred to as a Scope of Accreditation (“Scope”) for the Field of Testing (“FOT”) for which they were assessed). Depending on the accrediting body, the certificate may be valid for one to two years, and will require re-assessment and surveillance at defined frequencies. The laboratory is responsible to maintain conformance to the ISO 17025 standard in between assessments.
Ongoing Accreditation: Best Practices for Remaining Audit-Ready & On-Site Preparation
Accredited laboratories face the task every one to two years of being re-assessed to maintain their accreditation (either by surveillance or full reassessment). During the re-assessment process, the laboratory will undergo a similar process as with the initial assessment, sans applications. The laboratory also has an opportunity to add or change any FOT’s on their Scope.
Experienced laboratories maintain an “audit-ready” approach to audit preparedness. Tyson Foods Safety & Laboratory Services has held ISO 17025 accreditation since 2002. Vanessa Cook, quality systems manager for Tyson Foods says, “Rather than preparing for audits, we have an expectation to be audit-ready at all times by implementing the many processes involved in the laboratory in a manner that is self-sustaining.  We try to design our processes to have quality and compliance built into each step with acceptance criteria defined.” This approach has multiple advantages, including increased confidence in data and management systems between audits and decreased “crunch time” preparation as assessment dates approach. Treat audit preparation as a continuous process, not a singular event leading up to the audit itself. Cook also stresses the importance of staff preparation. “All team members have a role in driving continuous improvement, and how all lab tasks support the achievement of the quality objectives and the quality policy,” she says. “If team members understand the expectations of processes they participate in, then they are well prepared and able to be confident when audited.”
The overall tone and approach to assessments and assessor interaction, while often intangible, can be a key factor to assessment success. “Audit Attitude” guidance can be communicated in a variety of ways, from specific written policies and SOP’s, to informal incorporation into training programs. Accredited laboratories are advised to have a defined and consistent culture around how personnel interact with assessors throughout the process. Benjamin Howard, laboratory director at Certified Laboratories of the Midwest  (an ANAB Accredited facility),  begins this coaching process at the time of hire. “For a new person coming into our operation, we train them to be open and receptive to the assessor and their questions,” he says. “It can take a bit of experience, but our seasoned employees can navigate the nuances of the assessor interaction. The key is to answer questions directly and provide information in a clear and confident manner.”  Howard also remarks on the advice he gives employees when they are unsure: “They should not guess.  What is important in those cases is to acknowledge your uncertainty and then to demonstrate to the auditor that you know where to get that information if and when you need it.”
Internal organization and communication is critical to maximizing time with your assessor. Common best practices include:
Hold a pre-audit status meeting with all staff that might be in contact with the assessor. Discuss any key focus areas and remind them about your organizations philosophy on quality and interaction with assessors. Many laboratories will have specific training and procedures on how to behave during an audit.
Review previous audits, both external and internal, and be prepared for scrutiny on past findings. For multi-site laboratories, communicate with sister-operations to understand any findings or areas of focus they encountered previously.
If applicable, have a corporate quality representative on-site for all audits. This person ideally knows the intricacies and details of both the ISO 17025 standard and internal policies and systems. They can aide in making this portion of the assessment swift and, in the case of multi-site facilities, consistent. This isn’t to say that your corporate representative should handle the entirety of your audit, local and user-based interaction is a necessary component of an on-site assessment.
To the extent possible, have pertinent documents and records pulled, organized and in order prior to assessor arrival. Organization of your program is a key indicator for the assessor and can help instill confidence in them about your operation.
If there are known gaps in your system, make sure corrective actions are already in place. A common area assessors will examine initially is customer complaints. Ensure that complaints escalate through the corrective action program and are documented when appropriate.
Structuring the on-site assessment should include allowance for access to the technical and quality managers as well as technicians, analysts and even administrative personnel who handle samples routinely throughout the process. Most assessors are sensitive to operational laboratories and do their best not to impede the functionality of the laboratory during an assessment. An open and cooperative discussion with your assessor about ongoing projects and workflow needs will help your assessment go smooth while meeting operational deadlines.
While no amount of preparation can guard from the unknown, it is the preparation that equips a laboratory to deal with unknowns that inevitably crop up during an audit. Peter Dragasakis, quality manager at Eurofins Microbiology Laboratories is the corporate representative onsite during all audits of the wide network of facilities. “When gaps arise during audit preparation, or even during an on-site assessment, be upfront about them and work with your assessor to show how you are addressing the problem.” Common issues such as high turnover rates can expose training record gaps in an operation, and will likely result in a finding (deficiency). Dragasakis reminds his team: “The assessor is not here to harm us; we are their customer. They are here to ensure we meet requirements and identify gaps to improve our overall systems.” Technician interviews are another common area of gap exposure. Dragasakis encourages honest and specific communication. “First, we try to calm the nerves of the technicians, especially if they are newer to the audit process,” he says. “We let them know it is 100% acceptable for them to answer an assessors question with ‘I don’t know’, as long as it is followed with insight on where they would go to find the answer. We also train our technicians to answer the question asked, but not to volunteer more information than requested.”
Bring It All Together
For laboratories that are in the early stages of accreditation, or considering becoming accredited, the following expert advice can be key to a successful outcome:
Critically evaluate the resources required to initiate and maintain accreditation
Consider the use of a consultant to get you started
Stay organized throughout the application and assessment process
Remain open and cooperative with the assessor and answer the questions asked
Emphasize “audit readiness” as a continual process
Reinforce the importance of the quality system to gain buy in from employees; start at the time of hire
Follow the best-practice audit preparation tips
It’s okay to say “I don’t know”, as long as you know where to find the answer
In Part II of this article, we will explore what comes after the on-site assessment and provide practical user-based advice for preparing a response, common areas of non-conformance, and future changes to the ISO 17025 Standard.

FDA Alerts Pet Owners about Hyperthyroidism
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By Linda Larsen (Mar 28, 2017)
The FDA is warning pet owners and veterinarians to the potential for hypothyroidism in their pets because some pet food and treats are made with livestock gullets that contain thyroid tissue and hormones. While hyperthyroidism is more common in cats, in dogs it is rare and is usually triggered by thyroid cancer.
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, increased appetite, restlessness, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, rapid and/or labored breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea. Continued exposure to excess thyroid hormones in these pet foods can cause damage to the heart and in some cases, death.
The Center for Veterinary Medicine recently investigated cases of three dogs in different households that showed signs of this disease. Testing on samples from the dogs were conducted at a reference laboratory. Those tests revealed elevated thyroid hormone in the blood, and no thyroid cancer.
Interviews with the dog’s owners found that all three dogs had been fed BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs and/or Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs. Those products were recalled for excessive thyroid hormone after these incidents.
After the dogs stopped eating those products, their clinical signs disappeared and their thyroid hormone levels returned to normal. The FDA tested unopened cans of BLUE Wilderness® Rocky Mountain Recipe TM Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs and Wellness 95% Beef Topper for Dogs and confirmed that they contained active thyroid hormone. The source of thyroid hormones is likely from the use of gullets from which the thyroid glands were not completely removed before adding to pet food or treats.
Wellpet voluntarily recalled some of their products on March 17, 2017, as did the Blue Buffalo Company on the same day. Please check to make sure you do not have any of these products on hand. If you do, do not feed them to your pet. Throw them away in a secure garbage can so other animals can’t eat them.
And if your dog has eaten these products and is exhibiting the signs of hyperthyroidism, take him to the vet. Make sure that you have a record of your dog’s dietary history with you, as well as how much the dog was eating and for how long.

The Produce Rule comes into focus at Food Safety Summit
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By CORAL BEACH (Mar 28, 2017)
Few things are certain in farming and no amount of planning can prevent or undo the damage of an untimely hail storm or hard freeze.
But there’s one thing one thing produce growers and packers already know about the 2018 season. They know whether they are among the 35,000 operations that must comply with new federal food safety rules next year.
Known simply as the Produce Rule, the new regulations were mandated by Congress in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and include preventive actions ranging from testing water for bacteria to training requirements for supervisors.
Section 112.22 (c) of the Produce Rule requires that at least one supervisor or responsible party from a farm “must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to the standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the FDA.”
That training didn’t exist before FSMA was signed into law in 2011. It didn’t exist a year ago. But it does now, and it’s on the agenda for the 2017 Food Safety Summit, set for May 8-11 at the Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare International Airport in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, IL.
Developed by the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) based at Cornell University, the training curriculum has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The PSA launched its “Train the Trainers” program in September 2016. In the six months since then, Don Stoeckel and five others have trained 1,000 trainers across the country.
Stoeckel is scheduled at the instructor for the eight-hour training course offered on the first day of the summit, May 8. The course satisfies the FSMA Product Rule training requirement, with participants receiving a certificate of course attendance from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO).
“Much of the Produce Rule is based on GAP (Good Agricultural Practices), so people who are used to GAP audits are already close,” Stoeckel said recently. “The big exception is the water quality requirement. The concept is the same but the long-term strategy now involves statistical calculations.
“Two things do set this training apart from general GAP training, though. This is standardized, therefore everyone is learning the same content. And the focus is on the actual requirements of the Produce Rule.”
Stoeckel said there are tools to help growers and packers of fresh fruits and vegetables with the higher math, including online tools from the University of California-Davis and Arizona State University.
Practical tips like the online tools are just one nugget of the food safety information included in the PSA Grower Training course. Stoeckel will cover how to develop and implement a food safety plan that meets the requirements of FSMA and the Produce Rule.
Stoeckel knows the material from several perspectives. He is an environmental microbiologist who has collaborated with the Cornell National Good Agricultural Practices Program for nearly a decade on water quality issues related to food safety.
For the past five years, he has been an instructor of the online GAPs Produce Safety Course. Stoeckel has 15 years of professional research experience at Battelle Memorial Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey. He also has served in adjunct teaching roles at Cornell University, Ohio State University, Auburn University, Columbus State Community College, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.
Stoeckel joined the Produce Safety Alliance staff in August 2015 as the Midwest Regional Extension Associate.
The PSA Grower Training course is just one of six certification courses the 2017 Food Safety Summit is offering. Other courses are:
New Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) courses on the FSMA rules on Preventive Controls for Human Foods; Preventive Controls for Animal Food; and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs.
Seafood HACCP – Segment 2; and
Professional Food Safety Auditor Training.
In addition to the educational sessions and opportunities to hear from government officials in person, the Food Safety Summit trade show floor offers more than 200 booths with representatives from businesses, government agencies, publications and academic institutions available to interact with summit attendees.
Early-bird registration rates for the 2017 Food Safety Summit are in effect until April 14. After April 14 full registration fees apply. Those attendees who sign up for the PSA Grower Training course will receive a 15 percent discount on the rest of the summit registration fees.

A new era of food transparency with Wal-Mart center in China
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By FRANK YIANNAS (Mar 27, 2017)
Editor’s note: Depending on which hemisphere you are in while reading this column by Wal-Mart Vice President for Food Safety Frank Yiannas, the retailer’s new Food Safety Collaboration Center is opening today or tomorrow (March 29) in Beijing, China.
The food system has been changing since the dawn of time, but never more rapidly or dramatically as it has the potential to do so today. After countless millennia as hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers and a century or so of industrial farming and modern retail, we are now entering a new era.
Today, whether we live in Shenzhen, Santiago, Sheffield or Chicago, we shop at modern retail stores with tens of thousands of products on the shelves. We fill our shopping baskets with fresh and frozen foods without regard for the season. We can choose to buy local or enjoy the best products from the best producers anywhere in the world. We go online and get whatever we want delivered direct to our door or local store.
This choice, affordability, and convenience is the result of many extensive developments throughout the food supply chain, but one development stands out to me as the most inspiring and impactful. It’s not a technology or a business model: not the Internet of Things or mobile commerce or globalization. Nor is it a new idea; it’s one our hungry cave-dwelling ancestors knew and understood. It’s called “collaboration.”
Food safety without borders
I’ve been in the food industry for more than 30 years and I work for the world’s largest retailer. With operations in 28 countries, selling fresh groceries and food items both in-store and online, we work with food producers, regulators, academic institutions, transportation companies, and others within and between countries the world over.
As food industry professionals, we know that hazards in the food supply don’t recognize borders or boundaries, so we can’t limit our food safety systems in this way either. As long as foodborne disease exists somewhere in the world, it can exist anywhere in the world. And when others win battles against foodborne disease, we all win.
Regulators in China, Europe, the United States and elsewhere are now collaborating to create better food safety laws and regulations, and private sector companies are increasingly sharing food safety best practices. But we need to do much more than this.
An idea born in China
Last year, we announced the Wal-Mart Food Safety Collaboration Center in China and called for partners in the food system to participate. Our aim is to help accelerate the development and adoption of food safety solutions that can be openly shared and scaled throughout the supply chain. We will bring together Chinese and international expertise to help identify food safety issues in China and to find practical solutions to these challenges. Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation plan to invest $25 million over five years on projects to advance food safety in China.
The center will open its office March 29, when it will host the first meeting of its international board of experts and set its plans for the year. It has already received overwhelming support from government officials, industry associations, academia and businesses in China and the U.S.
For the center to succeed, these parties will need to work together. But to achieve the broader aim of safer food for everyone, something that is much more difficult needs to be achieved: industry-wide collaboration. This means nothing less than transparency and trust that scales across the farm-to-fork supply chain.
Building with blockchain
One of the first projects to come out of the Wal-Mart Food Safety Collaboration Center addresses this. It is a blockchain pilot being driven jointly by IBM, suppliers and Tsinghua University. Blockchain is the technology behind cyber-currencies like Bitcoin. It creates a digital, permanent ledger that links blocks of data together in an unbroken chain, allowing unrelated stakeholders to jointly keep a secure and reliable record of important data attributes and transactions. No one can change or remove the data, and it’s not centralized; everyone has access to it.
Our blockchain pilot test in China is starting with pork and tracing it from farm to table.
This technology could enable me, as the retailer, to be able to digitally track individual pork products in minutes, not days. I’ll know the farm, the factory, the batch number, storage temperature and shipping details. I’ll be able to tell if this product is authentic and safe, and when it expires. If a food contamination issue arises at the farm or factory, I’ll know which products to recall, and which may be left on the shelves.
21st Century transparency
China’s situation may seem unique. After all, it’s facing rapid economic growth and urbanization, as well as considerable changes to food consumption habits. It has traditional agricultural practices alongside modern farms, and traditional wet markets as well as modern supermarkets. Transportation and logistics are developing rapidly, with efficient urban infrastructure but underserved and remote rural districts.
Even so, it’s clear that today’s food system is more global and interconnected than ever. Markets as diverse as China, Chile, the UK and the U.S. are actually more alike than they seem at first glance.
When I sit down to enjoy one of my favorite desserts, tiramisu, I know that that I am looking at a multitude of ingredients, sourced from all over the world: cream from the U.S., chocolate from Belgium, vanilla from Madagascar, coffee beans from Colombia. My tiramisu may appear simple yet is made up of some of the world’s finest ingredients, and I care about the quality of every one.
Now imagine there’s a global recall of a certain brand of chocolate. As a consumer, I’d like to know that the chocolate in my tiramisu is not involved. As the food producer or retailer, I want this information too, and I need it immediately to minimize the impact on my business.
Blockchain technology has the potential to provide this level of traceability as part of a digitized food system. It can also take us beyond traceability to transparency, where we have a complete and interconnected view of the supply chain.  We hope this will lead to new insights that can further improve supply chain efficiencies, promote sustainability, and reduce food waste.
Transparency will be a game changer in the world of food safety in the 21st Century. It’s technically possible today and, with China on the leading edge of this shift, it’s closer than you might think.

Could your cookbooks kill you? Health experts slam recipes that 'pay no attention to food safety'
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That new cookbook may have a great spaghetti bolognese recipe, but it probably likely won't give you good advice when it comes to how to handle meat safely, health experts have warned.
Researchers found that bestselling cookbooks provide readers with little advice about how to reduce food-safety risks.
And when they did give advice, most of it was inaccurate and not based on sound science.
'Cookbooks aren’t widely viewed as a primary source of food-safety information, but cookbook sales are strong and they’re intended to be instructional,' said Dr Ben Chapman, senior author of the study and an associate professor of agricultural and human sciences at North Carolina State University.
'Cookbooks tell people how to cook, so we wanted to see if cookbooks were providing any food-safety information related to cooking meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, and whether they were telling people to cook in a way that could affect the risk of contracting foodborne illness,' he said.
To conduct the study, researchers based at North Carolina State University analyzed 1,497 recipes in 29 cookbooks that appeared on New York Times best sellers list for food and diet books.
All of these recipes were chosen because they included raw animal ingredients including meat, poultry, seafood or eggs.
While 1,749 recipes in the books contained raw animal ingredients, only 1,497 contained a raw animal that could effectively be measured with a digital thermometer.
When evaluating each recipe, the researchers considered three things: Does the recipe tell readers to cook the dish to a specific internal temperature?
If it does include a temperature, has that temperature been shown to be 'safe'? For example, cooking chicken to 165°F.
Finally,  does the recipe perpetuate food-safety myths - such as advising to cook poultry until the juices 'run clear'.
Such myths have been proven to be an unreliable way to determine if food has reached a high enough temperature to be cooked safely.
The researchers revealed that only 123 recipes - 8 per cent of all the recipes analyzed - mentioned cooking the dish to a specific temperature, and not all the temperatures listed were high enough to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
'In other words, very few recipes provided relevant food-safety information, and 34 of those 123 recipes gave readers information that wasn't safe,' Dr Chapman said.
'Put another way, only 89 out of 1,497 recipes gave readers reliable information that they could use to reduce their risk of foodborne illness.'
They also found that 99.7 per cent of recipes provided readers with 'subjective indicators' to determine when a dish was done cooking - but none of those indicators were reliable enough to tell if the dish had reached a safe enough temperature.
The most common subjective indicator that the researchers came across was cooking time, which appeared in 44 per cent of the recipes.
'And cooking time is particularly unreliable, because so many factors can affect how long it takes to cook something: the size of the dish being cooked, how cold it was before going into the oven, differences in cooking equipment, and so on,' said Katrina Levine, the lead author of the study and an extension associate at North Carolina State's Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences.
Other 'myth' indicators used in the cookbook include the color or texture of the meat and vague instructions such as 'cook until done'.
'This is important because cooking meat, poultry, seafood and eggs to a safe internal temperature kills off pathogens that cause foodborne illness,' Ms Levine said.
'These temperatures were established based on extensive research, targeting the most likely pathogens found in each food,' she said.
A list of safe cooking temperatures can be found on the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website.
'Ideally, cookbooks can help us make food tasty and reduce our risk of getting sick, so we'd like to see recipes include good endpoint cooking temperatures,' Dr Chapman said.
'A similar study was done 25 years ago and found similar results - so nothing has changed in the past quarter century.'
By talking about the results of this new study, Dr Chapman hopes to encourage that change. 

Skyrocketing Rates of Hepatitis A in Detroit, Michigan Counties
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By Linda Larsen (Mar 27, 2017)
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is warning the public they are seeing elevated numbers of new hepatitis A cases in Detroit and in the counties of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne. Cases have increased eightfold over the same time period in 2015 – 2016.
Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS, said in a statement, “together with our local health partners, we are increasing outreach to vulnerable populations to raise awareness and promote vaccination of hepatitis A. Those who live, work, or play in the city of Detroit, as well as Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties are urged to get vaccinated for hepatitis A and talk to their healthcare provider about their risks.”
From August 1, 2016 to March 21, 2017, 107 cases of lab-confirmed hepatitis A have been reported to public health officials in those locations. The patient age range is from 22 to 86 years, with an average age of 45. Most of those sickened have been male. Eighty-five percent of the cases have been hospitalized, which is a very high percentage. Two deaths have been reported.
About one-third of the patients have a history of substance abuse. Sixteen percent of all patients are co-infected with hepatitis C, which can cause liver failure. Officials have not been able to identify a common source of these infections.
Hepatitis A can be prevented by vaccinations. This shot is recommended as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, but most adults have not been vaccinated against this virus.
Hepatitis A is very contagious. It can be spread through person-to-person contact, through contaminated food and drink, and through contact with contaminated surfaces. Other risk factors include living with someone who has the illness, or sharing illegal drugs with someone who is sick.
The symptoms of hepatitis A include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, dark colored urine, clay-colored stools, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain. Symptoms can appear within a few days of infection or take was long as 50 days to appear. Some patients can be sick for a few weeks, but others can be sick for up to six months.
MCHHS is encouraging residents in these areas to check their hepatitis A vaccination status and to talk to their doctor about the risks for contacting this illness. You can contact your county health departments for more information.





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