The Supply Chain and Food Safety Culture: Primary Production
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/aprilmay-2017/the-supply-chain-and-food-safety-culture-primary-production/
By Food Safety Magazine
The food supply chain is of global importance. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) focuses on providing thought leadership and guidance on food safety management systems along the food supply chain. This thought leadership has extended outside the standard requirements for making safe food to touch on aspects of organizational management, including food safety culture. In the last issue, we examined the importance of creating a culture of food safety; here, we summarize the perspectives of industry leaders and practitioners in the primary production sector of the global food supply chain.
We invited five individuals to help elucidate the challenges around creating a food safety culture: David Barney, Geofresh Ltd., part-time member of the One Harvest Team; Andrew Francey, general manager at One Harvest, Ready-to-Eat Salad production; Megh Bhandari, Ph.D., corporate food safety manager at the Mucci Group of Companies/Mucci Farms; Laurie Beard, Learning & Development Manager, Kanes Foods Ltd.; and Robert J. Whitaker, Ph.D., chief science and technology officer for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).
FSM: How do you see your personal role in creating a culture of food safety?
Barney: My role is to contribute experience and expertise gained in other markets, regions and situations to challenge and question current practices and to support the management teams at One Harvest.
Francey: My personal role is to build the food safety competencies and behaviors (employee competency, efficient systems for effective control, compliance and auditing tasks, appropriate structure and development plans for teams, succession planning for technical teams, etc.) in our teams and systems to support our people.
Bhandari: I am responsible in developing, implementing and monitoring corporate food safety policies and programs. Among them, creating and maintaining a good food safety culture is one of the key issues of our food safety management system (FSMS). My experiences talking about food safety culture are that it’s been a tough job to convince two groups of people about the importance of culture: senior management, to obtain enough resources, and middle managers and line workers, to implement and maintain appreciable food safety culture and best practices. However, I am a true believer that food safety culture is the backbone of a successful FSMS, and I am always working to include this element in every corporate food safety plan and matrix.
Beard: My role in the management of training plays an integral part in creating a food safety culture. Food safety is the leading KPI [key performance indicator] of the business. This is the one aspect of the business (other than a physical catastrophe) that could close the business within hours.
Whitaker: My role is to help the produce and floral industries understand the importance of making food safety a part of their business cultures. We have over 2,700 diverse, global member companies representing the entire supply chain from small growers to retail and foodservice buyers; PMA strives to provide our members with the knowledge and tools to help them integrate science- and risk-based food safety practices into their business cultures.
FSM: How do you define food safety culture in your (or any) organization, and do you think these definitions differ between management and line workers?
Barney: I would define “food safety culture” as the ingrained approach that the business takes to managing food safety. My definition would not distinguish between management and line workers, or between the business and its suppliers.
Francey: The food safety culture in our organization underpins our food business; it is not only the foundation of our business for future generations but also a core strength of why our customers do business with us. It is largely a culture in transition from compliance to continuous improvement.
The compliance culture does not differ between line workers and management, and is a clear strength of our organization. We continue to develop a culture of continuous improvement throughout our organization, led by senior management.
For third-party primary production, various levels of culture exist within the industry: from an understanding of its importance through to cultures where food safety is secondary to the commercial and operational aspects of farming.
Bhandari: We believe that food safety culture is the practical awareness of food safety and the meaningful understanding of the importance of food safety and the individual’s role in preserving good food safety practices within the organization.
Our senior management is truly committed to corporate food safety culture and emphasize the “walk the talk” philosophy. However, in practice, there are occasional incidents in which senior managers are overwhelmed with production target/cost issues and (knowingly or unknowingly) compromise food safety, whereas well-educated and trained workers always adhere to the company’s food safety codes and guidelines. Our company has a discipline and reward system, which works impressively to create and maintain a sound food safety culture among the floor workers.
Beard: Safeguards that protect the business must apply equally to management and the shop floor workers—a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Management must, however, have a committed intent and ability to ensure that food safety practices are applied. A key requirement of the company applies equally to management and the operating workforce—the constant readiness for an external unannounced audit—this might be BRC [British Retail Consortium] or customer generated. The first indication of a good audit is when the first operative is asked about his/her role and his/her understanding of Critical Control Points (CCPs) within the role. The company at present holds an AA award from BRC [The top grade of AA is awarded only if the audit reveals no more than five minor nonconformities and provides an incentive to engage in continuous improvement, even for manufacturers with excellent performance], and a major part of this achievement is provided by the ability and knowledge of the workforce and the application of food safety principles by management.
Whitaker: For the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is not a single industry; the produce industry is really a collection of industries. We have all shapes and sizes of growers, and the practices and cultures of these growers depend upon where they are located, the crops they grow and the customers they serve. We have harvesting, cooling, shipping and distribution companies in the supply chain, each with a special focus on the commodities they handle. We have packing operations that range from seasonal packers to year-round operations that are state of the art. We have “mom and pop” processors to multibillion-dollar food companies and everything in between. On the buying side, our collective industry serves all forms of foodservice and retail from roadside stands to chains to club stores. We also have numerous service providers that supply everything from pallets to whole-genome sequencing services to our industry. Each of these types of operations has different business characteristics and therefore different business cultures and different views on food safety. So food safety culture needs to be considered within the framework of this complexity and frankly is defined almost individually by these companies.
What we try to do is to interact with these companies to help them understand the importance of food safety prioritization in terms of protecting their business, their customers and consumers. We try to translate sometimes-complex food safety science into best practices, help them understand regulatory requirements and guide them through the intricacies of what is really change management for many of them.
FSM: Using the maturity model (Figure 1), where do you think your company is on the scale? Your industry? And why?
Barney: I’d say that we’re between stages 3 and 4. (We understand the major drivers and manage them in line with industry best practices but may not be proactively driving a food safety agenda.) We’re leaders in the Australian industry on this and compare pretty well with fresh-cut providers in other markets. In the last 10 years, the industry (worldwide) has woken up to the fact that food safety is an issue for fresh produce. The extent to which this has influenced supplier development has depended on the immediacy of food safety incidents and local perceived risk.
There are significant differences between suppliers—making it difficult to generalize. I’d say that we’ve got everything from stages 1 to 4. This is, I’m sure, common across the industry (in Australia and elsewhere). Factors that have held back the development of food safety culture among fresh produce growers include age and education of the people involved, the nature and scale of many farms (often smaller businesses with limited resources), lack of direct exposure to the end user, the fact that fresh produce has only relatively recently (last 10 years) been recognized as a major food safety risk, lack of local food safety incidents, etc.
Francey: Our company is between stages 2 and 3. Perceived Value and People System are a 3; Process Thinking and Technology are a 2; and Tools and Infrastructure are a 3.
The ready-to-eat salad industry can be split between more advanced processors, likely to be at a similar stage as ourselves, and smaller grower/packers that are likely to be between stages 1 and 2.
The third-party primary production industry is largely at stage 1. A core focus of our organization is to lead food safety initiatives, and improve food safety culture, at the farm level in our industry.
Bhandari: Going through the chart, our Perceived Value is stage 3, identifier 0.7. Food safety is the top priority of our business operations. We have significantly invested in establishing a dependable food safety system, and all decisions are based on factual data from risk assessments.
Our People System is stage 4, identifier 0.5. Our company has employed qualified individuals (Ph.D. and master’s degree holders) in its food safety department and encourages skills development by providing opportunities to participate in professional training, workshops and seminars. A bottom-up approach is used to design food safety programs; comments/feedback are welcome, even from junior workers. Roles and responsibilities for each employee are clearly defined in a written Standard Operating Procedure; the company has well-established, two-way channels of communication.
Process Thinking is stage 2, identifier 0.8. Food safety elements are incorporated into each business plan and matrix. FSMS are managed through a “process approach.” In managing food safety programs, the PDCA [plan-do-check-act] principle is used as a tool for continual improvement, and root-cause analysis methodology is used to solve the identified problem or issues.
Technology Enabler is stage 3, identifier 0.5. Food safety tools, equipment and software are used to manage food safety programs and information. Employees are trained on the use of equipment and software. All food safety data are stored in a central database and used as necessary to formulate new policies or programs.
Tools and Infrastructure is stage 4, identifier 0.9. The company is significantly investing in food safety infrastructure, including buildings, equipment and testing tools. We have our own in-house laboratory for quick and day-to-day food safety testing and monitoring.
Beard: The business sits between “Predict” and “Internalize” on each of the subheadings. Over the past 4–5 years, we have moved away from the everyday “firefighting”/unstructured problem-solving behaviors to be in control of food safety processes. This has happened via major investment in Technical and Training functions.
Whitaker: The produce industry runs the gamut of the chart. We have thought-leading companies who are at stage 5 and others that are just now beginning to understand the importance of food safety. The fresh produce industry is still relatively “new” to the issue of food safety. It was only in the late 1990s that the industry began to see the first impact of a foodborne illness outbreak related to produce. The public health systems and the state of the science were insufficient to really ascribe illness directly to produce items, and most incidents up until 2000 were one-off issues that were easy for the industry to shrug off or to consider as something that only happens to others. During the early 2000s, there was still a great deal of denial, and the industry generally thought of food safety as a commodity-specific issue with some products being “riskier” than others or food safety problems being only an issue for large growers or just processed products. Much of this seeming lack of concern was driven by the fact that there simply was a deficit of food safety data and research aimed at produce, with most research in the U.S. directed to meat, poultry, dairy and other products. When buying groups became engaged in produce food safety, the emphasis was placed solely on an operation’s ability to pass a food safety audit, and the requirements for supplier audits were highly inconsistent between and among buyers. The net result was that “passing an audit” became the goal for many suppliers, and they did not develop a fully engaged sense of what food safety really is: a top management commitment to risk- and science-based programs that mitigate the risk of contamination. Larger companies that were required to provide food safety audits and later to have written food safety plans have progressed toward developing food safety cultures over the last decade, but there is still a gap between a true food safety culture for most companies and a company with a food safety program that can achieve appropriate scores on an audit. In many companies, top management may not really be involved in food safety, and the chore is assigned to the food safety team, creating inevitable conflicts and fractured decision making. Still, others that fall outside a buyer’s requirements are virtually at the starting line, and even some simply move products to outlets that do not require food safety systems. Many of the latter companies also fall outside the Food Safety Modernization Act requirements as well.
Certainly, highly publicized and sometimes tragic food safety events have focused the industry on food safety, and, correspondingly, C-level executives have gotten more involved in food safety issues, though mostly intermittently. Again, a lack of science and transparency from regulatory officials following illness events and a failure of top executives to recognize the impact of these events have slowed the advancement of food safety culture development. Produce is a fast-moving industry with many highly perishable products, no kill steps as implemented with processed products and where margins are narrow and year-round supply demanded. These characteristics create opportunities and challenges for adopting a true food safety culture. Therefore, while great strides are made every day, we still have a way to go to develop true food safety cultures.
FSM: Is your company (grower base) where it needs to be in terms of prioritizing food safety? If so, how do you maintain that level of commitment? If not, how do you think you should go about getting there?
Barney: We do pretty good; we have a clear commitment and Good Manufacturing Practices in place. The next step would be to improve and cascade a real understanding of food safety through the organization.
We must continue to build partnerships with committed growers and involve them in the (One Harvest) business to the extent that they become exposed to customers and customer concerns about food safety. We need to establish and discipline expected standards for primary producers, and work with industry to raise the profile of food safety and emphasize the importance of primary production in the supply chain. Education is key.
Francey: From a prioritization of food safety, the commitment and understanding are where they need to be. Improvements in systems, communication and continuous improvement processes are required to move to a proactive “next practice” culture. A significant investment is being made to develop food safety systems at the farm level.
Bhandari: Food safety is a core value of our business operations and has been given top priority. Food safety concerns and issues are being discussed in company executive meetings and operational meetings.
Per company food safety policy, our entire supply chain must be audited and certified for a GFSI-benchmarked scheme. This applies to all our external vendors and suppliers as well.
The commitments come from top management “to do the right things in the right way,” which is a big inspiration in maintaining sound food safety culture within the organization. However, in the big picture, the motivating factors for inducing such high-level commitment are 1) customer expectations, 2) brand goodwill and loyalty, 3) sales and marketing tools, 4) competitive advantage over peer companies and 5) regulatory compliance requirements.
Beard: The level of commitment is supported by providing food safety training from the “bottom up” and “top down.” New staff are presented with food safety requirements at induction. This is reinforced by introductory training at the operation site and by ensuring that all staff are aware of the CCPs relevant to their operations.
Whitaker: While incredible progress has been made in a relatively short time frame, the produce industry is still evolving in terms of food safety culture. As already indicated, the produce industry is evolving. Change comes difficult for an industry as complex as the produce industry; this is not an excuse but a reality. For a business to achieve a food safety culture, there must be a willingness to embrace change: to acknowledge that the way business has been conducted for generations is not appropriate any longer. Our knowledge base on food safety and produce has expanded, and technology has permitted us to detect, measure and share data like never before; hence, we are able to recognize failures in food safety and their impacts on public health in an unprecedented way. Therefore, while we have companies in all stages of the journey to developing true food safety cultures, some are still finding it difficult to do more than just “pass audits.”
An issue for many on the supply side is an uncertainty of what buyers are doing for food safety. It seems sometimes to suppliers that the burden and the costs get pushed to the supply side in the form of audit costs, testing, sharing records, facility improvements, personnel costs, etc. Suppliers feel like they are held to a certain level of responsibility (which is legally theirs), yet buyers purchase from those with food safety programs, and sometimes from those without, based on price. Indeed, many in the produce industry favored the Food Safety Modernization Act simply because they saw it as a way to level the playing field between those who have invested in food safety and those who have not. In my role, I see why they would think that, but I also get to see the investments many on the buy side of the industry make in food safety. Amazingly enough, in this age of instant communication, buyers often neglect to demonstrate their investment in food safety, and we instead talk of buyer requirements rather than food safety investments being made across the supply chain. Sustainable commitment to food safety culture will be based on partnerships between suppliers and buyers where roles and joint responsibilities are well communicated and understood.
Commitment is also going to be dependent on growing our food safety knowledge base. As food safety practices have evolved in the produce industry, many required elements in audits and standards have little relationship to actual science and even less to actual public health risk. This has been improving in the last decade, but growers still find audits and checklists full of things they must do without the benefit of understanding why. It is important to use the data being developed around food safety to create risk models to help the entire industry better assess risks and prioritize where investments in resources are needed.
Lastly, sustainable commitment to food safety culture will come down to people. There is currently a lack of qualified or trained personnel to meet the industry needs in food safety. Produce is a 24/7 industry, often in less-than-comfortable conditions, and it has proven difficult over the last decade to draw the next generation of employees to fill these needed positions.
FSM: What are your major challenges in maintaining a solid food safety culture among primary producers?
Barney: All the usual ones: the daily job, competency and turnover of staff, resources, etc. Plus, the fact that much of our food safety performance and risk are determined by what goes on in the field and with our growers. We have to establish an effective food safety culture within our own business—but we need to help our growers do the same thing. [This is a fairly unique feature of the fresh-cut industry: We do relatively little to the product and (one could argue) have no real CCPs.]
Other challenges include a lack of influence over their operations (in some cases). Mixed messages are sent and received: Primary producers are not necessarily getting the same pressure to improve from all of their customers/markets. Where there’s a problem, the blockage is nearly always at the top: Farms are frequently owner-managed and the owner has to be fully bought in to the concept before anything happens.
Francey: Competency of employees, efficient systems for effective control, compliance and auditing tasks, enablement of continuous improvement work, appropriate structure and development plans for teams, succession planning for technical teams.
Third-party growers remain a major challenge. Resource-challenged, often without professional technical skills, little visible “owner” commitment, driven by a cost-first, reactive approach with “band-aid” solutions.
Bhandari: 1. Training and education (training materials and language)
2. Competency of employees (hard to get food safety graduates)
3. Resources (new tools, lab equipment and infrastructure)
4. R&D (research and extension services on emerging food safety issues)
5. Lack of government funding and support
6. Access to knowledge and information resource (research articles, webinars, workshops, etc.)
Beard: The major challenges include:
1. An ever-changing workforce at the operations level—the conditions of working (cold environment and a deteriorating fresh product) are not the best for staff retention. The company has tried to avoid using agency labor, as this exacerbates the problem of maintaining a “safety” culture, and we have traditionally mistrusted the role of “gang masters.” As trainers, we must ensure that all staff have received the necessary level and content of training to ensure that food safety is protected as well as guaranteeing the quality of the product and the safety of the employees.
2. The changing technical requirements of customers are a constant pressure. As trainers, we must be aware of all changes and ensure that these are incorporated into the training procedures. An essential part of this process is the training of quality controllers within the factories.
3. There are time constraints in processing fresh produce, and it is necessary to recognize these constraints to make sure that operatives are able to perform within a comfort level that ensures quality, personal safety and food safety. Training procedures are designed to ensure that these factors are not compromised.
4. The company has four distinct factories within a single site—there is a flow of work in process between these factories (the product of one factory can become a material of the receiving factory) and circumstances relating to certain materials (e.g., allergens) become relevant to a receiving factory. As trainers, we need to ensure that producers and receivers are aware of the food safety implications of all vulnerable materials and operations.
Whitaker: In the end, I think the major challenge in maintaining a food safety culture is a company’s continuous commitment to improvement. It is important to stay current on new and emerging food safety science and technology, and reflect on how the science can be used to update and improve operational practices in production, distribution and point of sale. Part of this continual improvement also resides in creating awareness of the importance of food safety practices, educating employees, trading partners and consumers.
Food Safety Magazine thanks all the panelists for sharing their expertise. A special thank-you goes to Lone Jespersen, Cultivate, and Gillian Kelleher, Wegmans, for helping coordinate the participants and formulate the questions for this article series.
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Two lawsuits over last year’s Listeria outbreak settled by Dole
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/04/two-lawsuits-over-last-years-listeria-outbreak-settled-by-dole/#.WQfk2tKLSUl
By DAN FLYNN (Apr 30, 2017)
The deadly Listeria outbreak that shutdown the Ohio Dole Fresh Vegetables salad processing facility for three months in early 2016 is now in civil litigation, but that too may be ending. The Dayton Daily News was first to report that Monterey, CA-based Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. has reached separate undisclosed settlements with two of the parties claiming injuries in the outbreak.
The litigation stemmed from the 9-state, 5-province Listeria outbreak that product sampling traced back to the Dole packaged salads facility in Springfield, OH. Dole has maintained the packaged salads where not adulterated when they left their facility. Fourteen Listeria infections were treated in Canada, according to that country’s Public Health Agency and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 19 cases in the United States.
All the U.S.cases required hospitalization and there was one death in Michigan that CDC associates with the outbreak.
Dole reported on Jan. 21, 2016 that it had stopped production the Springfield, OH facility where it produced package salads. At the same time, Dole withdrew all packaged salads produced at the Ohio facility that were then on the market. It expanded the recall a week later. It did not resume packaging salads in Springfield until late April 2016.
The parties are just a step short of requesting dismissal of two cases that are separately before U.S. District Courts. The Plaintiffs are two elderly Ohio women, one from Franklin County and the other Warren County.
Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who represents the Warren County woman, says his nationally known food safety firm also has two cases still to be filed from the outbreak, including the Michigan death case.
On the case he did settle with Dole, Marler would only acknowledge the opposing attorneys filed notice with the court that “the matter was resolved by mutual agreement of the parties.”
Editor’s Note: Marler is also publisher of Food Safety News.
North Dakota OK’s ‘Food Freedom’ bill — without raw milk
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/04/food-freedom-bill-okd-in-north-dakota-without-raw-milk/#.WQflPdKLSUl
By DAN FLYNN (Apr 27, 2017)
Two bills, one to enact a “Food Freedom” statute and the other to continue only pasteurized milk sales, followed a similar course during the recently completed session of the North Dakota Legislature in Bismarck. Both bills were signed into law.
One was not exactly the price of passing the other, but the sponsor of the “Food Freedom” law found it was easier to pass “Food Freedom” once raw milk was dropped from the equation.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has already signed both into law. House Bill (HB) 1433 is a comprehensive “Food Freedom” statute similar to Wyoming’s law, and HB 1127 is the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.
North Dakota Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, found that after he removed raw milk sales, his “Food Freedom” law passed easily with a 58-to-29 vote in the House and 36-to-10 vote in the Senate. A rancher, Simons just completed his first session.
Among the “freedoms” enacted in the new North Dakota law is an exemption from grading eggs from a producer’s own flock under the statute. Also a “cottage food operator” may produce and package food from a home kitchen.
The new law defines a “cottage food product” as including baked goods, jams, jellies and other food and drink products. It permits sales by cottage food operators to “an informed end consumer.”
Only sales for home consumption are permitted, and they “may occur at a farm, ranch, farmers’ market, farm stand, home-based kitchen or another venue not otherwise permitted by law.
The new North Dakota law reminds producers that transactions may not involve interstate commerce, or be conducted over the internet or phone, including through the mail or by consignment.
Sales of meat products produced without inspection are prohibited except for small poultry producers. Cottage food operators are permitted to raise poultry flocks with up to 1,000 birds per year, so long as the product is not adulterated or misbranded.
Unprocessed fruits and vegetables prepared by a cottage food operator may not be sold in any food establishment, processing plant or food store.
End consumers must be told that cottage food sold under the law is not certified, labeled, licensed, packaged, regulated or inspected. Also any cottage food products that require refrigeration will require labeling.
Signage saying “This product is made in a home kitchen that is not inspected by the state or local health department” must be present at the point of sale and on product labels.
The North Dakota Department of Health and local health authorities may investigate any illness or environmental health complaints. In addition, the “Food Freedom” law makes no change to state requirements for brand inspections or animal health inspections.
Several actions that also might interfere with interstate commerce are also specifically prohibited by the law.
Wyoming’s “Food Freedom” law was first adopted in 2015, and expanded in 2017. About two dozen other states have permitted production and sales of some “cottage food” products. Most of those statutes were adopted after 2010.
The North Dakota Legislature unanimously passed the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, adopted the 2015 revision of the Grade “A” Pasteurized Ordinance as issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA’s Public Health Service.
Food safety threat in plain sight; counter measures less clear
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/04/food-safety-threat-in-plain-sight-counter-measures-less-clear/#.WQfl-tKLSUl
By COOKSON BEECHER (Apr 27, 2017)
Food allergies threaten lives daily; research gaps and misinformation complicate issue
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series about food allergies and the efforts by public health agencies, schools, legislators and parents to make it easier and safer for allergic individuals to manage risks.
A chronic disease with no known cure. An emerging epidemic that affects up to 15 million people in the United States, including 1 in 13 kids, and more than 17 million people in Europe.
No, this isn’t about an unknown disease that has suddenly emerged out of nowhere, but rather one that has been here all long, although it’s becoming more prevalent. It’s food allergies, and for some people it’s a food safety issue that can be a matter of life and death.
Food allergies among children increased about 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to a 2013 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And although the number of people with food allergies is increasing, there’s no clear answer as to why.
Simply put, a food allergy happens when the person’s immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein as a threat and attacks it.
Symptoms of allergic reactions to food can range from a rash and an itchy mouth to anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening reaction.
An anaphylactic reaction can include coughing, wheezing, tightness in your chest, fainting, swelling of the throat, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, and rapid heart beat. Generally the first line of defense for such reactions is an injection of epinephrine, which can be administered with an EpiPen. From there, and a visit to the emergency room.
According to the CDC, food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside hospital settings. Anaphylaxis can also occur in people who are allergic to insect stings, medications and other non-food allergens.
Food Allergy Research & Education Inc. (FARE) , which is a non-profit organization, has this sobering information to share: Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to an emergency room in the U.S. That adds up to more than 200,000 emergency visits per year.
Yet, the true prevalence of food allergies is unknown due to the misinterpretation of symptoms and the lack of simple diagnostic tests, according to a recent study done by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
With that in mind, the study outlines steps to address public health concerns about food allergy safety. No easy task, the study points out, because no research in the U.S. has been conducted with sufficient sample size and in various populations to determine how many people actually have food allergies.
To make matters worse, says the study, public health officials and health care providers frequently misinterpret a food allergy and its symptoms. Not only that, they often cannot differentiate a food allergy from other immune and gastrointestinal diseases, such as lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivity. Also, they frequently don’t know which management and prevention approaches are effective and the best ones to use.
‘We were out there on our own’
Wisconsin mom Amber Stroud is living proof of how much more needs to be known about food allergies.
“We were out there on our own. We felt lost,” she said, referring to the time when she realized that her daughter Iris had food allergies.
Even though Iris had had allergic reactions to yogurt and cheese when she was still just a baby — her face swelled, turned red, and she developed a rash — her pediatrician told Stroud that Iris was fine because “you’re nursing her.”
But when Iris was a year old, an allergist ran some tests and discovered she was allergic to 29 things, among them wheat, rye, oats, barley, chicken, turkey, eggs, peas, soy, bananas, legumes, tree nuts and peanuts. Stroud was advised that she might have to homeschool her daughter.
“My whole world crashed. Who is there to help us,” she remembers thinking. “I needed someone to go to the store with us and show us how to shop for foods Iris could eat. I’d walk through the stores crying. Our whole world had changed.”
At one point, a dietician she was working with suggested they feed Iris some hummus, which is mashed-up garbanzo beans with tahini, aka sesame oil, mixed in.
After eating just one-eighth of a teaspoon, Iris had a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction to the sesame, a product that doesn’t have to be labeled as an ingredient because it isn’t one of the Top 8 allergens that federal law requires to be declared on food labels.
Those food allergens, which account for 90 percent of allergic reactions, are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish.
According to the study, food allergies typically develop within the first year of life but they can also develop later in life. Some go away as children get older.
Now that Iris is almost 4, she has grown out of many of the allergies but still remains allergic to dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, peas and sesame.
“It’s so much easier now,” said Stroud, also expressing gratitude for being in a support group of other parents whose children have allergies.
Yet she also knows that things will get more challenging once Iris starts going to school,
With that in mind, Stroud has already been visiting the neighborhood school to talk about food allergies with teachers and staff.
“I’m trying to educate them now, before Iris goes to school,” she said. “Her teacher wants to be involved. After all, Iris won’t be the only child in the school with food allergies.”
As for the essential piece of education that’s still missing, Stroud sums it up like this: “Allergies can be deadly. Until you’ve lived it, you just don’t know.”
‘Our world changed forever’
Irina Lerman remembers how she and her husband “high fived it” after they gave their 10-month-old son, Joshua, some peanut butter, and he had no reaction.
“We cleared all of the allergies, or so we thought,” she said.
Their son loved everything they gave him. Things were looking good. But then one day they gave him some hummus and “our world changed forever,” said Lerman. He started getting red and then broke out in hives and his left eye swelled.
She remembers yelling “Oh my God, he’s having an allergic reaction to something. What do we do?”
“Benadryl,” yelled her panic-stricken husband. “Give him some Benadryl.”
After giving him the antihistamine, they rushed to the emergency room. But by the time they got there, his hives had subsided and he seemed OK. So they drove to the pediatrician’s office instead.
Subsequent testing revealed that he had a severe allergy to sesame.
“At first we didn’t think much of it,” she said. “We assumed that sesame is easy to avoid. No hummus, no sesame bagels, no big deal.
“Again we were wrong.”
Doing some research, she discovered that sesame has 40 different names. And even more daunting, because sesame is not in the Top 8 allergens that must be included on labels, it can hide in natural flavors and spices. And cross-contamination can be a problem because equipment-cleaning rules don’t apply because it’s not one of the Top 8 allergens.
“My journey has been calling every company before giving my son anything,” she said.
But that has its own drawbacks as well since some companies won’t provide her with an answer when she asks if their products contain sesame. Often they’ll tell her that the information is proprietary.
However, some companies such as Kraft, General Mills and Pepperidge Farms are choosing to include sesame on their labels if it’s used in their products. When she thanked Pepperidge Farms for doing that, they told her that the company voluntarily calls out sesame “because we realize sesame is a top allergen.”
Lerman also shared her frustrations when going to restaurants. You can’t get a reliable answer from the wait staff or the chef as to whether sesame is in any of the foods. Most often they just don’t know.
An estimated 500,000 people in the United States are allergic to sesame, and that number is growing, most likely because more people are eating “exotic” foods than in the past. While Canada, Australia, Israel and most of Europe require sesame be declared on labels, the United States has no such requirement.
“We need sesame to be included as the top ninth allergen,” Lerman wrote in comments to the Food and Drug Administration about a proposed bill, ‘Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015,’ which has of yet gone nowhere.
In those same comments, Lerman also pointed out that the recent study of food allergies by the National Academies of Science Engineering Medicine stated: “… evidence of allergy prevalence and reaction severity to sesame seeds may warrant their inclusion on the priority allergen list in the United States.”
Like Stroud, Lerman points to how serious all of this is. “There are allergies, and then there are life-threatening food allergies,” she said. “People need to be educated about this.”
Avoidance can be difficult
Avoiding food allergens is not as easy as it might seem. People can avoid foods that contain ingredients there’re allergic to but cooking from scratch in their own kitchens, but it becomes complicated when dining away from home. Birthday parties, sleepovers, potlucks, restaurants, school cafeterias, and snacks grabbed as you run from one place to another all present the potential for an allergic reaction.
Virginia Stallings, director of the Nutrition Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, says education is the key.
“… because people with food allergies are in different settings throughout their daily lives, concerted efforts by early care and education systems, schools and universities, food establishments, and the travel industry — in addition to the health care system — are necessary to bring about a safe environment for those with food allergies.”
Because of that reality, she said, many policies, practices, and behaviors could be changed in the short term to substantially improve food safety, which, in turn, would enhance the health and quality of life for individuals with this chronic disease and save lives.
One of those changes, says the study, would be to improve education and training for health care providers, patients and their caregivers, the food industry, and the general public. Along with this, the study recommends that public health authorities, such as the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and professional societies regularly update their guidelines on diagnosis, prevention and management of food allergies based on strong scientific evidence, as emerging data become available.
It also recommends that medical schools and residency and fellowship programs include training in the management of food allergies and anaphylaxis, which should go along with training on approaches to counseling patients and their caregivers.
And, of course, organizations that provide emergency training to first responders and the public should include food allergy and anaphylaxis emergency management in their training.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
That’s New York attorney Jill Mindlin’s mantra as she lives life with a daughter who has food allergies, although she has outgrown some of them now that she’s almost 16. Nevertheless, she’s still allergic to dairy, eggs, tree nuts and several other foods.
“There’s a loss of spontaneity,” Mindlin said, referring to events that pose problems with food allergies. Events like vacations, for example.
“If we’re going on a trip, we need to know where we’ll be eating,” she said. “We need to include that in our plans.”
Preparation is especially important now that her daughter, Maya, is close to going off to college. Mindlin knows she can’t go with her, of course, and so has been relinquishing control bit by bit and handing it over to her daughter.
“It’s been a difficult shift for me,” she said. “I don’t carry an EpiPen in my purse anymore. Now that’s her responsibility.”
Mindlin is the co-leader with a parent who’s a nurse of a support group that helps parents through the challenges of dealing with food allergies. The 100 to 150 members share information through emails. Mindlin was also a panel member who participated in the study.
Mindlin said that the parents in the support group learn the symptoms to look out for and how to prevent, recognize and respond to them. Besides the rashes and swelling and other well-known symptoms, there’s another symptom that many people don’t know about: the fear of impending doom. Not everyone with an allergic reaction experiences this symptom, but it’s important for people to know about. It happened to Mindlin once, and she actually collapsed in the hospital and lost consciousness.
“The learning curve is tremendous,” she said. “All of this is serious, which is why so much more research is needed.”
Recommendations from the study committee
Use proper diagnostic methods and provide evidence-based health care. This is important, the committee reported, because there are a lot of “non-standardized and unproven procedures” such as electro-dermal testing and applied kinesiology.
Even so doctors and other health care providers may recommend tests that are not scientifically proven to be effective in diagnosing food allergies. Parents may read about them on the Internet as they search for solutions.
The “Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States,” published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, specifically lists tests that are unproven and non-standardized and are not recommended for the diagnosis of food allergy, many of which are included in the list below. They also warn that the tests can be risky. The guidelines recommend against:
Applied Kinesiology (muscle testing)
Electrodermal test (vega testing)
Nambrudipad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) aka Natural Elimination of Allergy treatment (NEAT)
“No simple accurate diagnostic tests exist for food allergy,” according to the study. “The patient’s medical history and other test results, such as from a skin-prick test, can suggest the likelihood of a food allergy, but it’s not enough to confirm a diagnosis.
Food industry leaders need to work to integrate food allergy training into existing food safety and customer service training for employees at all levels. This means including processing sites, retail food and grocery stores, restaurants and other foodservice venues.
The study’s authors also contend the current precautionary labeling system for allergenic foods is not effective in informing consumers about the risks from food allergens.
The report recommends that within the next year, federal agencies such as the FDA, CDC, and the Federal Aviation Administration convene a special task force that includes participants from the medical community, food companies, and advocacy stakeholder groups to establish and implement policy guidelines.
The report also says that guidelines should ensure that emergency epinephrine capabilities such as EpiPens are in place for children and adults in public venues, including schools, early care and education facilities, and airplanes. Training in food allergy and anaphylaxis first aid should be provided to appropriate school and university health staff, early care and education providers and on-board flight crews.
The study was supported by:
Food and Drug Administration
Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,
Egg Nutrition Center,
Food Allergy Research & Education,
International Life Sciences Institute North America,
International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation,
National Dairy Council,
National Peanut Board,
The Seafood Industry Research Fund.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.
FDA report shows cheese maker knew of Listeria in facility
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2017/04/fda-report-shows-cheese-maker-knew-of-listeria-in-facility/#.WQfmytKLSUl
BY CORAL BEACH (Apr 25, 2017)
The owner of Vulto Creamery, whose raw milk cheese has killed at least two people in a multi-state Listeria outbreak, had been getting positive results for the pathogen from his equipment and production plant for at least 20 months before he initiated a recall in Ma Inspections of Johannes H. Vulto’s cheese-making operation in Walton, NY, by the Food and Drug Administration in late February and early March showed multiple and long-standing food safety problems. Those violations are documented in an FDA Form 483 report issued to the company March 22 and obtained by Food Safety News this week.
Violations documented by inspectors included:
Vulto and an employee who had visible cuts on his arms, both reaching elbow-deep into vats of cheese to use their bare hands and arms to separate cheese curds;
The buildup of what appeared to be black and green mold on multiple pieces of equipment and surfaces in the facility;
Lack of temperature alarm systems for freezers, coolers and cheese storage rooms;
An admission by the owner that the company does not calibrate and never has calibrated the thermometers located in the cheese aging room and walk-in cooler;
Multiple plumbing problems related to blackflow prevention and drains; and
Insect strips overloaded with dead flies.
And, although Vulto was conducting regular swab tests of equipment and surfaces, a more than 27 percent positive rate for Listeria species did not induce him to conduct adequate follow-up testing after cleaning and sanitizing, according to the FDA inspection report.
Inspectors were in the facility on Feb. 28 and March 1, 2, 7, 13, 17, 22. Their work included a review of the Vulto Creamery records, which showed 54 out of 198 swab tests on equipment and the wall, floors, drains and other surfaces collected between July 2014 and February this year were positive for Listeria.
“You have not conducted an investigation to provide identification of the Listeria spp. to genus and species and you have also failed to identify its source or point of entry/harborage in your facility,” the FDA inspectors wrote in their report.
“A total of 10 of the 54 positive results were found on food contact surfaces between 10/30/2014 and 4/28/2015. You did not conduct microbial testing of finished products to confirm that your finished products were not contaminated with the organism found by your environmental testing program.
“… The procedure used for cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils has not been shown to provide adequate cleaning and sanitizing treatment.”
Both the FDA and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets have confirmed Listeria monocytogenes in samples of raw milk cheese made by Vulto Creamery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention matched the “DNA fingerprint” of the Listeria in the cheese with that of samples from six people hospitalized with Listeria infections from Sept. 1, 2016, through Jan. 22 this year.rch.
All six victims consumed raw milk cheese before becoming sick. Their ages range from less than one year to 89 years old. Two of them died.
Additional victims may be identified because it can take up to 70 days after exposure for symptoms of Listeria infection to develop.
The FDA notified Vulto about the positive results for Listeria monocytogenes on March 3, but the company did not publicly post a recall until March 7. On March 11 the company expanded the recall to include all of its raw milk cheeses and suspended operations pending the outcome of the FDA’s investigation.
“The raw milk cheeses were distributed nationwide, with most being sold at retail locations in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States, California, Chicago Illinois, Portland Oregon and Washington D.C.,” according to the recall notice on the FDA website.
In addition to continuing to produce and sell raw milk cheeses even though there was Listeria present in the facility, Vulto failed to submit a “reportable food report” to FDA as required by federal law.
“Specifically, you were notified via telephone on 3/3/2017 that your firm’s Ouleout soft raw milk cheese product bearing lot #617 was found to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne pathogen, and that you would need to file a reportable food reported to the FDA within 24 hours,” according to the FDA’s Form 483 report dated March 22.
“At this present time, you still have not filed a reportable food report with the FDA.”
The man behind the cheese
Although he is listed as Johannes H. Vulto in the FDA report, the owner of Vulto Creamery refers to himself as Jos Vulto on his company website.
“Jos had been making cheese in his apartment for about five years, aging it under the Brooklyn sidewalk. He had never set out to become a cheese maker but after half a year of experimenting and favorable reception of some of his creations, he started to explore the possibility of starting a creamery,” according to the company website.
“He started construction of the creamery in 2010 and after some tragic delays, finally produced the first legal batch in 2012.”
Vulto is originally from Holland, according to a profile in the cheese industry publication Culture Magazine. He has not responded to requests for comment from Food Safety News.
“Vulto came to the United States in 1990 on a Dutch government–sponsored grant. For two years he was an artist-in-residence at P.S. 1, the famed contemporary art center in New York City, and by the time his grant ran out, Vulto had decided to stay,” the magazine reported.
To read previous Food Safety News coverage of the outbreak and recall, please see:
2 dead in multi-state Listeria outbreak traced to Vulto cheese
Widow names raw milk creamery in wrongful death lawsuit
Updates from the NoroCORE Project: Progress toward Reducing the Burden of Foodborne Viruses
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/aprilmay-2017/updates-from-the-norocore-project-progress-toward-reducing-the-burden-of-foodborne-viruses/
By Elizabeth Bradshaw, D.V.M., M.P.H., Otto D. Simmons III, Ph.D., and Lee-Ann Jaykus, Ph.DSource
In a 2014 Food Safety Magazine article, we gave a detailed overview of NoroCORE, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) Food Virology Collaborative, in which we outlined the six core functions of the NoroCORE project and plans for what we hoped to accomplish. NoroCORE (the Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research and Education) has continually worked toward its goal of reducing the burden of foodborne viral illness, and we are proud to say we have much to show for our efforts. Now, as we near the end of the grant, we describe some of the Collaborative’s major achievements and long-standing impacts that will continue well beyond the life of the initial project.
What Is Norovirus?
While bacterial causes of foodborne illness, such as pathogenic Escherichia coli and Salmonella, may come first to many people’s minds, noroviruses account for over half of the cases of foodborne illness in the United States, at 5.5 million cases a year. In fact, they are actually the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the world. Combining all exposure routes, including foods, norovirus is responsible for about 20 million cases each year in the U.S. alone.
Norovirus has also been called the “perfect human pathogen,” because it is highly contagious, is shed in high numbers by infected individuals, evolves rapidly and seems adept at avoiding our ability to create lasting immunity. This last trait, coupled with the fact that most of us recover from norovirus infections, means that on average, we will experience norovirus five times during the course of our lives. Add the fact that it is a very hardy virus that is resistant to most disinfectants and sanitizers when used as directed by their manufacturers, and it’s clear why this pathogen is a big problem around the world. It is a major concern for several industries, but foodservice has a particular interest, as most foodborne norovirus outbreaks occur in restaurants or similar establishments.
NoroCORE Tackles the Problem Holistically
Realizing that a complex problem often requires a creative and multifaceted solution, USDA-NIFA funded the NoroCORE project with a $25 million Coordinated Agricultural Project grant in 2011. The purpose of the project has been to increase our scientific knowledge of foodborne viruses, particularly norovirus, and then communicate and translate this information into real-world applications that will reduce the burden of disease associated with these viruses. NoroCORE has successfully brought researchers and resources from varied scientific disciplines together, while also providing strong education and outreach programs to a diverse stakeholder group.
In just a few short years, NoroCORE has grown from 18 collaborating institutions to 25 and includes 36 principal investigators. We also have a varied stakeholder group, hailing from regulatory and public health agencies, food safety organizations and industries such as food production and processing, foodservice and retail, diagnostics and testing, sanitation and hygiene and the cruise line industry. This equates to over 200 individuals representing over 60 entities. In addition to bringing an even greater wealth of knowledge and experience to the project, interaction with our stakeholder group helps ensure that the research can be more readily implemented for the benefit of public health.
Success Stories from NoroCORE
NoroCORE has made real and substantial strides in solving a very complex problem. Here are a few of our success stories.
1. The cultivation of human norovirus
One of the classic ways scientists work with viruses is to expose them to living cells, typically of animal origin, in culture, allowing them to infect and multiply within those cells. This allows us to better understand viral biology; evaluate the efficacy of candidate disinfection strategies; and develop methods to more easily detect them. While we can culture many other viruses (including some viruses from the same family), researchers had tried unsuccessfully to culture human norovirus since we first learned of its existence almost 50 years ago. Not surprisingly, this lack of a culture system has long been considered the most significant barrier to norovirus research.
The systematic examination of the merits of so-called human norovirus surrogates has been an important objective of NoroCORE’s Molecular Virology Core. Team members have produced much data confirming the selection of the “best” cultivable surrogate to be very dependent upon the conditions or treatments being tested. This means there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to using a cultivable replacement in human norovirus studies. That said, NoroCORE has also sponsored work under the direction of Dr. Mary Estes at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) to develop a human norovirus culture system. The BCM group was successful, using three-dimensional structures of human intestinal cells to grow human norovirus.[9,10] The method has been reproduced in other labs, and scientists all over the world are embarking on training. Although still in its infancy, this method promises to be the start of a new era in norovirus research, both basic and applied.
2. Outreach to relevant commodity groups
NoroCORE meets the traditional definition of extension and outreach by communicating with fresh produce farmers, shellfish harvesters and food production and service groups at conferences, as well as on the farm or dock. In this regard, the NoroCORE team has worked closely with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference (ISSC) to establish a multi-tiered approach for disseminating information about viral contamination risks associated with consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish. The focus has been on the prevention of human sewage contamination in shellfish-harvesting waters, as this is believed to be the most common means by which molluscan shellfish become contaminated with norovirus. For instance, NoroCORE and ISSC jointly sponsored a conference on preventing fecal contamination of harvesting waters through the use of alternative microbial indicators, updated a DVD focusing on overboard waste dumping and waste management for boats and surveyed recreational boaters and fishermen to understand the best means of reaching these groups. This last effort evolved into an interactive exhibit called “Don’t Poo (or Spew) in the Blue” that is being presented at a series of eight boat shows in the U.S. (Figure 1).
Other examples of commodity-specific outreach include fact sheets and the development of customizable vomiting and fecal matter cleanup guidelines for use in foodservice facilities. NoroCORE has also worked closely with the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) to provide virus-specific information that has been integrated into the PSA national regulatory training curriculum required by the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce rule.
How great would it be if we could predict what would happen in a specific facility when norovirus was introduced? What if we could even go back in time and see what actions would have prevented a norovirus outbreak, or go forward in time and see what might be the best means of containing it? That is exactly what NorOPTIMAL was created to do.
NorOPTIMAL, or the Norovirus On-line Predictive Tool to Investigate Mitigation Alternatives, is a quantitative risk-modeling program that can predict the effects of different parameters in a spatial system. It has been tailored to norovirus, and wherever possible, the parameters are based in scientific data. For example, how much norovirus is transferred to a surface by a tactile event? What is the efficacy of different disinfectants? How much virus is dispersed when someone vomits in a room?
The model is built so that the user can simulate a specific environment (e.g., maps of the facility), identify one or more contamination events and then track norovirus as it spreads in time and space. Even the actions of individuals in the facility and the objects in the rooms can be manipulated. Once the parameters are set, the probabilistic model is run over and over to give the most likely outcomes. The impact of different control strategies (e.g., increased handwashing compliance, better disinfection, removal of ill individuals) on those outcomes can also be simulated. The prototype model has been produced for extended-care health facilities but is being adapted for use by the foodservice industry. This powerful tool can provide a wealth of useful information, such as the identity of hot spots in the facility that should receive extra attention when cleaning, the estimated financial costs of different interventions and a prediction of how long an outbreak will last before it is contained.
4. Estimates of disease burden
NoroCORE provided some of the funding that has led to a more comprehensive understanding of the burden of norovirus illness in the U.S. This work, done by our U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborators, includes better information on the importance of foods in transmission of norovirus and attribution of disease to specific foods and settings (Figure 2). For example, while cruise ships are often maligned as a common source of norovirus outbreaks, fewer than 0.5 percent of cruises experience an outbreak, amounting to only 0.01 percent of the nation’s total norovirus cases. By comparison, there is, on average, one foodborne norovirus outbreak reported every day in the U.S. Foodborne transmission accounts for about a quarter of all norovirus cases, and in the last couple of years, it was affirmed that a majority of these foodborne events occur in restaurants and foodservice. Looking deeper, 70 percent of the time, the contamination can be traced back to an infected worker who, more often than not, had bare-hand contact with food and/or did not practice good hand hygiene. This tells us that to have the greatest impact on public health, we should be more focused on controlling the means by which norovirus reaches our retail food supply and preventing ill workers from coming into contact with food.
Looking ahead, we will continue to work with CDC and other colleagues at Emory University to better characterize disease burden in at-risk human populations (e.g., the very young and the elderly) and the health implications of asymptomatic norovirus infections.
5. How the heck do we inactivate norovirus?
While preventing norovirus contamination is the best control measure, sometimes it just happens. This means that we must also build into the food system some means to inactivate the virus if it is there. Because of work done by the NoroCORE team, we know much more about how the virus is spread and how difficult it is to “kill.” For instance, investigators at North Carolina State University (NCSU) created a vomiting machine (Figure 3) to understand whether the virus is aerosolized when someone vomits and, if so, how much. The answer is that a very tiny amount of virus is released into the air after a simulated vomiting event, but it would be enough to cause human disease. Coupled with the fact that the aerosol spreads over several feet, these data suggest that wide areas need to be disinfected after a vomiting event.
We have also confirmed the long-suspected hypothesis that commonly used alcohol-based hand sanitizers cannot be relied upon to completely inactivate norovirus. Yes, as your mama said, handwashing remains the best control. Right now, NoroCORE investigators are comprehensively evaluating commercial and emerging surface disinfectants for anti-human noroviral efficacy. Keeping in mind that as we do not yet have a readily available, simple cell culture propagation method for human norovirus, it is difficult to determine just how effective a disinfectant might be. However, using a series of molecular and microscopic techniques, we can get a good idea. While it is too early for global conclusions, most products tested show some efficacy but often not the 4-log inactivation necessary to make U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved label claims. Chlorine at high concentrations does work but is fraught with its own problems. There is no ideal solution, but we are slowly narrowing down components that, when used in combination, might provide products with greater efficacy, less toxicity and less corrosivity.
6. Capacity building on multiple levels
NoroCORE has defined capacity building to include tangible products, such as new technologies and materials, as well as intangible ones, such as supporting those inside the Collaborative with a network of experts. Working in a specific field requires specific materials, some of which are so new or unique that they cannot be purchased from a catalog. To date, our reagent exchange program has documented over 150 exchanges among researchers affiliated with the Collaborative. This exchange has greatly expanded research capacity and facilitated cross-disciplinary collaboration. As for scholarly enrichment, there are over 3,200 articles in our literature database, the abstracts of which are archived and publicly available on our website. Our investigators have mentored over 50 graduate students through NoroCORE-funded research projects and fellowships, as well as 15 BRITE (Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise) summer internships through our collaboration with North Carolina Central University. Training these young people will enrich and shape the field for years to come.
NoroCORE also serves the scientific community at large. For example, at the 2016 International Association for Food Protection annual meeting, several NoroCORE senior investigators gave a two-day workshop on foodborne virus detection methods. We also recently added a web page with teaching materials for use by educators and the
7. Public outreach and engagement
Six years ago, the general public was not very familiar with the term “norovirus,” although people were very familiar with the disease it causes. NoroCORE is proud to have been part of the public conversation to bring about greater understanding of norovirus. Our general approach has been to use social media as a tool to educate and interact with consumers and professionals, and in just a couple of years, our posts and campaigns have had over 110,000 views and led to over 4,000 engagements. New discoveries, helpful information and a little humor have been the backbone of our campaigns (Figure 4), and we’ve found that people like to share their stories about norovirus (often in impressive and hilarious detail) and want to know how to protect themselves and their families. We even have a cheeky norovirus particle named Naughty Noro that tweets at people who are talking about their norovirus infections or current outbreaks, sparking conversations about what not to do (since of course he wants to keep spreading).
We have also had success with citizen science events, such as a mock norovirus outbreak at the 2015 International Association for Food Protection meeting. We recently launched another citizen science exercise on the importance of handwashing as illustrated by pictures of “Employees must wash hands” signs in restaurant bathrooms, voluntarily submitted by participants. As much as possible, we try to make our communications educational as well as fun, sharing information that will help people make informed decisions about food safety and norovirus prevention.
USDA-NIFA made a big gamble when they embraced the team science approach and funded a project as massive as NoroCORE. We believe that NoroCORE’s structure, with six interconnected core areas covering the functions of research, extension and education, along with public and stakeholder engagement, has been a good model for this particular approach to scientific problem solving. The NoroCORE program is currently being evaluated by an external group, which will allow us to identify what worked, what didn’t work and what components are critical to a large collaborative such as this one. But while our outputs follow the classic metrics of research papers, intellectual property, knowledge exchange and education, the outcomes of the project will continue to be realized in real-world applications. We hope that those will be greater awareness of the burden of norovirus illness, improved prevention and control strategies, methods that move the science forward and a reduction in disease burden. We look forward to seeing our efforts continue to mature into the future.
Elizabeth Bradshaw, D.V.M., M.P.H., is the Extension Associate for NoroCORE at NCSU. She has a background in science communication and epidemiology.
Otto D. Simmons III, Ph.D., is an Area-Specialized Agent in Food Safety in the Department of Horticultural Science at NCSU and previously worked as a research assisant professor and Extension Specialist for NoroCORE. His background is in public health and environmental microbiology, and his goal is to provide practical information to targeted stakeholder groups to prevent foodborne illness.
Lee-Ann Jaykus, Ph.D., is William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NCSU. Her current research efforts are varied and focus on food virology, development of molecular methods for foodborne pathogen detection, application of quantitative risk assessment in food safety and understanding the ecology of pathogens in foods.
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3. Lopman, BA et al. 2016. “The Vast and Varied Global Burden of Norovirus: Prospects for Prevention and Control.” PLoS Med 13, e1001999.
4. Hall, AJ et al. 2013. “Norovirus Disease in the United States.” Emerg Infect Dis 19:1198–1205.
5. Hall, AJ. 2012. “Noroviruses: The Perfect Human Pathogens?” J Infect Dis 205:1622–1624.
6. Hall, AJ et al. 2014. “Vital Signs: Foodborne Norovirus Outbreaks – United States, 2009–2012.” MMWR 63:491–495.
9. Ettayebi, K et al. 2016. “Replication of Human Noroviruses in Stem Cell-Derived Human Enteroids.” Science 353:1387–1393.
12. Campos, CJA and DN Lees. 2014. “Environmental Transmission of Human Noroviruses in Shellfish Waters.” Appl Environ Microbiol 80:3552–3561.
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An essential guide to food safety challenges in the 21st Century
Source : https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/34190/food-safety-21-century-food-fraud-pittcon/
New Food brings you a 21st Century update on developments and improvements in food safety…
As we look ahead to Pittcon at which many of the world leaders in food safety as well as New Food will be present, we bring you a 21st Century update on developments and improvements in food safety.
Why must we fight for food safety?
Contamination, be it deliberate or accidental, of food produce has extremely significant implications in the 21st Century. We might firstly consider food contamination as stemming from three principle motivations:
This instance represents the deliberate contamination of food and beverages to maximise profit which is ultimately an act of deliberate deception of the consumer to satisfy and maximise corporate profitability.
Threat to public health
In this case, it is often an accidental (but no less serious) and perhaps careless mishandling of food that leads to the production of unhygienic food outcomes.
An emerging threat that is being considered by governments around the world. This is essentially the use of food to deliberately cause harm to human populations for political or belief-motivated reasons.
In conclusion to this opening definition, we might deduce that food safety is very much at the top of the food and beverage industry’s ‘Things to do’ agenda – the international media coverage and exposure of the respective Chinese melamine scandal of 2008 and the European horse meat scandal of 2013 proving the sheer importance of the issue from a global standpoint.
So what must we do?
Legislate, legislate and legislate again
Across the globe, legislators and regulators are sitting up and taking notice. In the US, the FDA has recently introduced the first US legislation against deliberate food adulteration, requiring manufacturers to put much more stringent protections in place throughout the food production pipeline.
Europe too and the European Union has recently introduced a string of measures of which New Food in collaboration with food lawyer Cesare Varallo have extensively analysed. You can read this here.
Regulation seems to be working but nevertheless is far from a standalone solution.
Embrace the tech and science revolution
Big advances in NMR spectroscopy largely to analyse oils, wine and honey; new laser technology that has the capacity to ensure that coffee and chocolate quality is kept to its highest and chromatography developments have improved the checking process on drinking water.
These are just a drop in the ocean (if you’ll excuse the pun) regarding new technologies that are being constantly developed to challenge fraudulent practice.
In essence, imports pose a challenge for food safety…
Threats to food safety have undoubtedly changed in light of new technological advances and it is clear that we must too embrace even more advanced methods of prevention. Funding, innovation and determination will be key to ensuring a healthy marriage between food and science to ensure its safety for all.
Living in a globalised world, in which one crop is grown in a specific country or region, rice for example in Asia, but is distributed and consumed around the world, necessitates that transparency is key across the supply chain. Many worry that practices differ too greatly and the geopolitical distance between different nation states encourages fraudulent practice. In essence, imports pose a challenge for food safety due to both legal and logistical restrictions on inspections and standards.
Is bioterrorism in food a genuine threat?
This is something we largely haven’t explored yet. In theory, in the current tumultuous political climate and post-9/11 world it is equally and unfortunately something we cannot rule out. For this reason, we must admit that bioterrorism through food-supply contamination is a legitimate challenge that governments have to address.
Funding, innovation and determination will be key to ensuring a healthy marriage between food and science to ensure its safety for all…
It is widely thought that the 2011 outbreak of E. coli in Northern Germany that hit over 3000 people, and caused the deaths of over 50 might have been spread deliberately. Researchers following the outbreak examined the virulence and rapidity of the spread of the E. coli strand traced back to fenugreek sprouts from Egypt, suggested that it was not a natural outbreak.
In response to earlier fears, the US have implemented legislation in the form of the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, in which food businesses are fundamentally required to register with the US Food and Drug Administration and declare shipment information and other records.
A fishy issue
Elsewhere, in Europe fish mislabelling was causing noticeable fraudulent practice as many fish appear when filleted utterly indistinguishable from the next. Seafood fraud has therefore become a very serious issue both from a purely food fraud perspective but also for the sustainability of many species. Recent European analysis that looked into the most commonly purchased types of fish found that species, such as cod, tuna, hake and plaice, were mislabelled in up to 40%of cases.1
Both damaging to consumers, the environment and competition in the food production market, food fraud is becoming a true black mark on our industry. Fortunately, genetic technology has led the way in tackling the issue as well as ever-stricter EU regulation on labelling, tracing, and standardisation. The increased media and public awareness of fish fraud has been critical to raising awareness.
This is ultimately what we here at New Food strive to achieve. It is our aim to diffuse as much information as far as possible on the issue of food fraud and ensure that collectively as an industry we succeed in tackling this grossly serious challenge.
With thanks to Pittcon.org
Mariani S, Ellis J, O’Reilly A, et al. Mass Media Influence and the Regulation of Illegal Practices in the Seafood Market. Conservation Letters 2014; 7: 478-483
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Food Fraud 2017
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High Pressure: Uses for Pasteurization
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/high-pressure-uses-for-pasteurization/
By Christopher J. Doona, Ph.D., and Florence E. Feeherry, M.Sc. (Apr 18, 2017)
High hydrostatic pressure technologies are used in numerous applications, from preparing ceramic composites for aircraft, industrial diamond production, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and, more recently, for pasteurizing food.
New applications have been discovered for high pressure: inactivating bacterial spores that cause anthrax (Bacillus anthracis) and other pathogenic spores (Clostridium difficile, the notorious microbe of concern in hospitals and nursing care settings).
High pressure is a unique tool for inactivating spores and investigating their mechanisms.
While high pressure is used in commercial equipment (as large as 525 L) to pasteurize refrigerated foods such as juices, meats, seafood products, cold-serve soups and dips, high pressure has not yet been implemented for the production of commercially sterile foods for a combination of reasons.
Food sterilization (done for some military rations, NASA foods, and baby food purées) requires inactivating spores of Clostridium botulinum, which requires high hydrostatic pressures in conjunction with high temperatures.
In an alternative application, we used hydrostatic pressure in combination with moderate temperatures to kill a B. anthracis spore surrogate on self-decontaminating textiles.
High hydrostatic pressure killed the B. anthracis surrogate readily, and high pressure is also chemical-free, so it provided a way to decontaminate textiles without using harsh chemical regimes.”
Interestingly, many studies with high hydrostatic pressure used Bacillus spores as surrogates, which can be quite different from Clostridium species. We recently published a study of the high-pressure germination of C. difficile spores and Clostridium perfringens spores. The results demonstrated some of the differences between Bacillus and Clostridium spores—it was both remarkable and compelling.
The focus of this work presented a simplified, three-step, biochemically plausible “quasi-chemical” germination model (QCGM) for describing bacterial spore germination induced by high pressure processing (HPP) using spores of nonpathogenic Bacillus subtilis, a number of B. subtilis mutant phenotypes, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens spores (pressure surrogate) and C. difficile spores (the notorious hospital pathogen) at different HPP conditions for spore germination via germinant receptors (150 MPa and 37 °C) or through specific protein (SPoVA) channels (550 MPa and 50 °C) with or without prior heat activation of the spores. Spore activation, germination and inactivation can occur concurrently during the pressurization of spore populations that are well known for their heterogeneity. The QCGM has distinct advantages, because it is based on the mathematics of ordinary differential equations and can represent a simplified mechanism of the complex physiology of bacterial spore germination by HPP, including commitment and superdormancy. And since germination is rate determining in spore inactivation by HPP, examples of HPP inactivation kinetics of B. amyloliquefaciens spores were also shown and evaluated using the enhanced quasi-chemical kinetics model. Additionally, micrographs obtained with scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy of B. amyloliquefaciens spores inactivated by wet heat, chlorine dioxide or HPP were presented and compared. As the understanding of the mechanisms of spore activation, germination and inactivation by HPP continues to grow, mechanistic modeling results such as these will help describe and predict bacterial spore inactivation and support the commercial implementation of HPP under a wide range of pressure and temperature conditions (possibly including sub-sterilization temperatures) for myriad applications in food sterilization of C. botulinum, bio-decontamination of B. anthracis and pharmaceutical sterilization.
We will publish another study soon on spore germination using another nonthermal technology with cross-over potential for textiles: cold plasma. Cold plasma has the potential to eliminate biofilms that degrade textiles or contaminate water lines.
We look forward to continue moving science and technology forward in cross-cutting areas for the benefit of the soldiers in support of Natick’s mission and to know our research is so highly valued scientifically and for its real-world applications at Natick and in the international scientific community.
Christopher J. Doona, Ph.D., is senior research chemist for the U.S. Army – Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, MA.
Florence E. Feeherry, M.Sc., is a research microbiologist for the U.S. Army – Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, MA.
1. Doona, CJ et al. 2017. “A Quasi-chemical Model for Bacterial Spore Germination Kinetics by High Pressure.” Food Eng Rev 9:1–21.
2. Doona, CJ et al. 2016. “Effects of High Pressure Treatment on Spores of Clostridium Species.” Appl Environ Microbiol 82(17):5287–5297.
4. Feeherry FE et al. 2016. “Chemical Kinetics for the Microbial Safety of Foods Treated with High Pressure Processing or Hurdles.” Food Eng Rev 8:272.
5. Doona CJ et al. 2015. “Mathematical Models for the Inactivation of Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens Spores by High Pressure Processing.” Proceedings of the 2015 International Nonthermal Processing Workshop, November 12–13, Athens, Greece.
6. Gulati, D et al. 2015. “Modeling Moisture Migration in Model Multi-Domain Food System: Application to Storage of a Sandwich System.” Food Res Intern 76(3):427–438.
7. Doona CJ et al. 2015. “Fighting Ebola with Novel Spore Decontamination Technologies for the Military.” Front Microbiol 6(663):1–25.
8. Luu S et al. 2015. “The Effects of Heat Activation on Bacillus Spore Germination with Nutrients or under High Pressure, with or without Various Germination Proteins. Appl Environl Microbiol 81(8):2927–2938.
9. Doona CJ. 2014. “Ebola Virus Disease (EVD): Important Aspects for the Food Science and Technology Community.” IUFoST Scientific Information Bulletin, November.
10. Doona CJ et al. 2014. “High Pressure Germination of Bacillus subtilis Spores with Alterations in Levels and Types of Germination Proteins.” J Appl Microbiol 117(3):711–720.
11. Kong L et al. 2014. “Monitoring Rates and Heterogeneity of High Pressure Germination of Bacillus Spores using Phase Contrast Microscopy of Individual Spores.” Appl Environ Microbiol 80:345–353.
12. Perez-Valdespino A et al. 2014. “Properties and Function of the SpoVAEa and SpoVAF Proteins of Bacillus subtilis spores.” J Bacteriol 196(11):2077–2088.
13. Doona CJ et al. 2014. “The PCS, D-FENS, and D-FEND ALL: Novel Chlorine Dioxide Decontamination Technologies for the Military.” JoVE 88:e4354.
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