1/26
2005

ISSUE:
149

Sponsors




Sponsorship Q/A

Comprehensive News List

General Food Safety News, OUtbreak News
Recall News, New Methods News, USDA/FDA News
On-Line Slides, Job Information

Check current available Job Openings

Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at:
1-888-MPHotline
1-888-674-6854
Or send Email to:
mphotline.fsis@usda.gov

By phone or on the Web, answers to your questions on...

Safe food storage, handling, preparation
Product dating
Product content
Power outages and much more!

CFSAN 2004 Program Priorities Report Card
CFSAN 2004 Program Priorities Report Card

Decline of E. coli ; increase in allergen contamination
January 24, 2005
Herd on the Hill
Edited by Dana Downie
FDA reports a "dramatic decline" of E. coli O157:H7 infections from undercooked ground meat. The number of such infections dropped 42 percent in the past eight years and 36 percent between 2002 and 2003. Many strains of Salmonella (from contaminated meats, milk, or vegetables and insufficient hand
washing) dropped by 17 percent and illness from Yersinia (from raw or undercooked pork) has declined by 49 percent.
While E. coli is down, allergen contaminations are up by 50 percent in the last quarter. Common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. NMA staffers and others participated in a FSIS industry conference call to discuss allergen recalls. On the down side, however, the FDA report noted a greater incidence of illness from Listeria (from raw meats and vegetables and processed foods, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts, that become contaminated after processing). Salmonella, Listeria, and toxoplasma (from raw or undercooked meat or contaminated utensils and work surfaces) have been identified as the three pathogens that
cause more than 75 percent of foodborne illness deaths.
According to CDC Food Safety Office Director Dr. Art Liang, a group of viruses commonly referred to as Norwalk have become more significant. People can get
Norwalk virus infection by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated with stool from an infected person. Outbreaks in the United States are often linked to eating raw shellfish, especially oysters and clams. Medical authorities believe that the Norwalk viruses can be spread from person to person through direct contact or contamination during food preparation.

ELECTRONIC ANIMAL DISPOSITION REPORTING SYSTEM (eADRS) DATA ENTRY FOR THE BOVINE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY (BSE) SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM

PURPOSE
This notice informs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) personnel that BSE sample collection information will now be entered into the eADRS. The notice also cancels the use of FSIS Form 5000-11, beginning February 1, 2005.

BACKGROUND
In cooperation with FSIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) leads an ongoing, comprehensive, interagency surveillance program for BSE. FSIS Public Health Veterinarians (PHVs) have been collecting samples from all cattle showing signs of central nervous system (CNS) disorders, as well as from the types of cattle that may be at higher risk of being infected with the agent believed to cause BSE.

As stated in FSIS Notice 28-04, and clarified in FSIS Notice 29-04, all antemortem condemned cattle at federally inspected establishments will have a portion of the brain collected by the specially trained FSIS PHV, except for (1) cattle that are 400 pounds or less (which may be referred to as "veal calves") with characteristics of immature cattle, that are condemned by the FSIS PHV but do not exhibit CNS signs, and (2) cattle condemned on ante-mortem inspection that the establishment elects to have treated pursuant to 9 CFR 309.13(b). Those notices also provide for brain collection at alternative off-site locations.

To date, inspection program personnel have recorded information about the sample collection on FSIS Form 5000-11 (BSE Sampling Tracking Sheet), which has been used to ensure that FSIS receives reimbursement from APHIS for brain sample collection.

CANCELLATION OF FSIS FORM 5000-11
Beginning February 1, 2005, inspection program personnel will no longer complete or send FSIS Form 5000-11 to the Financial Processing Center (FPC). All of the information about BSE sample collection will be captured in the new version of eADRS. Inspection program personnel are expected to complete and send FSIS Form 5000-11 to the FPC through January 31, 2005.

UPDATED eADRS
The eADRS application will be updated in version 1.0.4 with new data entry screens and prompts for the entry of information related to BSE sample collection, such as the "Z" tag number (the red metal condemnation tag attached to all antemortem condemned cattle). NOTE: The new eADRS data entry for "Z" tag numbers applies to all antemortem condemned bovines subject to BSE sample collection, regardless of where the actual sample collection occurs.

Updated User's Guide information will be provided with eADRS version 1.0.4 to aid in the proper entry of BSE sample collection data. Inspection program personnel are expected to enter information regarding BSE sample collection in addition to the information already being entered related to disposition of cattle carcasses. As stated in the eADRS User's Guide, data should be entered by one designated person on one computer for a given shift for a specific slaughter date.

Instructions on downloading the new version of eADRS (version 1.0.4) the User's Guide will be sent by a separate electronic mail message when eADRS version 1.0.4 is available for implementation.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
For assistance with the technical aspects of using eADRS on the computer, please call FAIMHELP at 1-800-473-9135.

For assistance with inspection issues related to animal disposition, humane handling reporting, or BSE sample collection, please call the Technical Service Center at 1-800-233-3935.
Philip S. Derfler /s/
Assistant Administrator
Office of Policy, Program, and Employee Development



Time for Canada to build cattle industry less dependent on U.S.: Why should we suffer the costly hypocrisy of a protectionist country?
January 23, 2005
The Edmonton Journal
A12
Sheila Pratt
About 18 months ago, the dedicated veterinarians and inspectors at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency were, according tot his story, basking in the glow of international praise for their investigation into Alberta's first case of mad cow disease.
The public watchdogs had acted quickly and impressively -- "exceeding the investigations done in most other BSE-affected countries," said a review panel of international experts.
"This serves as a testament to the competence, capacity and dedication of effort of Canadian officials," the panel added. Well, well.
Three new BSE cases later, however, the CFIA approach is, the story says, looking worse for wear. It's taken half measures when decisive action was needed. It's moved at a frustratingly slow pace on the recommendations made by the same international panel. Its goal seems to be the least disruption of ties with the U.S.
To be fair, there's been no leadership from the federal or provincial government or the cattle industry to do anything else. Here we are again, fingers crossed hoping the border will open Mar. 7 so we can go back to the days before Alberta farmer Marwyn Peaster's cow tested positive for BSE, May 2003.
The story says that the problem is, the latest case is an animal born after the 1997 feed ban which was supposed to prevent spread of the disease by eliminating infected cattle parts from cattle feed.
The feed ban, CFIA's much-touted guarantee that the disease is under control, turns out to be leaky and inadequate. Suddenly, we find out the CFIA didn't recall the old contaminated feed after the 1997 ban went into effect.
Who knows how long the feed stayed in circulation increasing the risk of infection in younger cattle -- at least one case, as now seems likely? More accurately, it's been a partial feed ban. Rendered cattle parts can still be fed to chickens and pigs -- which can in turn be fed back to cattle. The potential loophole is obvious.
The CFIA has encountered mislabelled bags and other problems in its inspections in 1997, 2001 and 2003.
After the first BSE case, the CFIA moved quickly to ban cattle spinal cords and eyeballs from the human food chain -- Specified Risk Materials that carry the fatal prions. But it took 18 months for the CFIA to agree to the next step -- banning those SRMs from animal feed. The CFIA decided in December to move ahead, but there's months of consultation ahead. CFIA also continues to ignore Health Canada's recommendation in 2000 to ban the practice of feeding cattle blood to calves.
University of Ottawa's Bill Leiss, one of the country's foremost experts in risk assessment, was cited as pointing out Canada has never actually done enough testing to determine the size of the BSE problem in the herd and that's a mistake.
The CFIA rejected a proposal from its own staff last year to test 65,000 cattle in a one-year period to establish the prevalence of the disease. Instead, the agency chose the go-slow route, slowly ramping up testing (30,000 animals in 2005). That leaves us "several years away'' from actually knowing the true incidence of BSE, says the CFIA in its December report.
As Canadian consumers understand, the health risk to humans from eating beef is very, very low. With better public policy -- more testing and a total ban on feeding animal parts to animals -- the risk could be lowered to "trivial," says Leiss. "Total feed ban is the only way to get the prion out of the herd. And it costs a lot less than $5 billion," he says, referring to the losses to farmers and taxpayers.
CFIA's half measures also don't do much to reduce the industry's economic risk. They'll take cattle ranchers right back to over-dependence on the American market -- which left them so vulnerable in this crisis. After $5 billion in losses, do we really want to rebuild the industry on the same model?
Leiss says emphatically not -- though that's exactly where industry leaders and the provincial and federal governments are headed. It's a tempting solution because it will bring the fastest relief to ranchers' devastated balance sheets. But it isn't a long-term solution.

BEEF TO JAPAN

Source of Article: http://www.meatnews.com/

------------------------------------------------------------------
A key Japanese government official expresses limited optimism about resumption of beef trade between the United States and Japan.
------------------------------------------------------------------

Mamoru Ishihara, Japan¡¯s vice minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries believes the amount of U.S. beef imports to Japan will be limited -- even if a ban on such imports over bovine spongiform encephalopathy is lifted this year. ¡±Unfortunately, we would not be able to respond to demand from restaurants serving beef dishes and ox tongues,¡± he said told a press conference.

Japan and the United States will hold high-level talks in February aimed at striking an accord to lift Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports, the Associated Press reported. If both countries carry out procedures without any delay, the United States could resume exporting beef to Japan in the summer, according to Japanese government sources quoted by the Associated Press.

Trade representatives from both countries discussed details of preparations for resuming beef trade at a working-level meeting in Tokyo on Thursday. However, U.S. representatives did not provide any explanation on the exact amount of beef that could be exported to Japan after the termination of the embargo, ministry officials said.

Chuck Lambert, USDA deputy undersecretary, said Wednesday that cattle whose beef could become eligible for export to Japan would account for up to 35 percent of all U.S. cows slaughtered for consumption. But he did not elaborate on the actual amount.

Some U.S. officials are proposing that the United States export only beef from two groups of cattle -- cattle 17 months of age or younger and cows whose age has been verified. One point of debate is the method used to determine the age of the cattle. Age determination can be made through dentition, carcass characteristics, or birth records.

New Study Strengthens Link between Antibiotic Overuse in Food Animals and Dangerous Complications of Food Poisoning

Mon Jan 24, 9:28 AM ET
Source of Article: http://news.yahoo.com/
CHICAGO, Jan. 24 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A new report concludes that patients with antibiotic-resistant infections caused by Salmonella bacteria are more likely to suffer potentially deadly bloodstream infections than are patients with non-resistant Salmonella. Salmonella, a leading bacterial cause of food poisoning, is responsible for 1.4 million food poisoning cases and about 500 deaths per year. The study, published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, notes that the antibiotic resistance in Salmonella bacteria chiefly results from using antibiotics in food animals (http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JID/journal/issues/v191n4/33237 /brief/33237.abstract.html).

"This study drives home the health consequences of Salmonella bacteria becoming more resistant to antibiotics," said David Wallinga, M.D., a physician with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "Of course, treating these increasingly resistant bugs helps drive healthcare costs skyward as well."

The researchers looked at patients with food poisoning caused by Salmonella, including those infected by a particular type, Salmonella typhimurium. Among the latter, researchers found that patients infected by antibiotic-resistant Salmonella were much more likely to suffer severe complications such as bloodstream infections and to require hospitalization than were patients whose Salmonella infections were not resistant. Infections of the bloodstream can lead to meningitis, sepsis (overwhelming infection leading to shock and multiple organ failure) and death.

"This study shows that resistant bacteria not only result in harder to treat infections, but also make people sicker in the first place" said Margaret Mellon, J.D., Ph.D., director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Added to the many other studies linking antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture to human health problems, this study underscores the urgent need to reduce the massive overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture in order to protect human health."

The large-scale, industrialized operations that dominate meat production in the U.S. today routinely feed poultry, swine and beef cattle the same types of antibiotics that doctors use in human medicine, such as sulfa drugs and penicillins. Massive quantities of these medically important antibiotics - an estimated 13 million pounds each year - are used as animal feed additives. These antibiotic feed additives are not used to treat sick animals, but for growth promotion and to compensate for the stressful and crowded conditions within the industrial animal operations.

"This study gives Congress yet another compelling reason to pass bipartisan legislation to phase out the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine as animal feed additives," concluded Wallinga. "Phase-out legislation introduced last session was endorsed by the American Medical Association and over 100 other medical groups."
http://www.usnewswire.com/

Effect of a Probiotic Infant Formula on Infections in Child Care Centers: Comparison of Two Probiotic Agents

Source of Article: http://www.rednova.com/news/display/?id=120816

ABSTRACT. Objective. To investigate the effect of 2 different species of probiotics in preventing infections in infants attending child care centers.

Methods. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial was conducted from December 1, 2000, to September 30, 2002, at 14 child care centers in the Beer-Sheva area of Israel in healthy term infants 4 to 10 months old. Infants were assigned randomly to formula supplemented with Bifidobacterium lactis (BB-12), Lactobacillus reuteri (American Type Culture Collection 55730), or no probiotics. Duration of feeding, including follow-up, for each participant was 12 weeks. All infants were fed only the assigned formula and were not breastfed due to parental decision before recruitment to the study. Probiotic or prebiotic food products or supplements were not allowed. Main outcome measures were number of days and number of episodes with fever (>38C) and number of days and number of episodes with diarrhea or respiratory illness.

Results, Participants (n = 201) were similar regarding gestational age, birth weight, gender, and previous breastfeeding. The controls (n = 60), compared with those fed B lactis (n = 73) or L reuteri (n = 68), had significantly more febrile episodes (mean [95% confidence interval]: 0.41 [0.28-0.54] vs 0.27 [0.17-0.37] vs 0.11 [0.04-0.18], respectively). The controls also had more diarrhea episodes (0.31 [0.22-0.40] vs 0.13 [0.05-0.21] vs 0.02 [0.01-0.05], respectively) and episodes of longer duration (0.59 [0.34-0.84] vs 0.37 [0.08-0.66] vs 0.15 [0.12-0.18] days, respectively). The L reuteri group, compared with BB-12 or controls, had a significant decrease of number of days with fever, clinic visits, child care absences, and antibiotic prescriptions. Rate and duration of respiratory illnesses did not differ significantly between groups.

Conclusions. Child care infants fed a formula supplemented with L reuteri or B lactis had fewer and shorter episodes of diarrhea, with no effect on respiratory illnesses. These effects were more prominent with L reuteri, which was also the only supplement to improve additional morbidity parameters. Pediatrics 2005;115:5-9; probiotics, infant formula, child care, infections.

Girl's death possibly due to peanut allergy

Reaction suspected when Concord 8th-grader dies after eating at mall
GAIL SMITH-ARRANTS
Staff Writer
Source of Article: http://www.charlotte.com/mld/observer/news/local/10726340.htm

CONCORD - A 14-year-old Concord girl who had a peanut allergy died over the weekend after apparently having an allergic reaction while at a local mall, Cabarrus County school officials said Monday.

Gina Marie Hunt, an eighth-grader at Northwest Cabarrus Middle School, died Saturday at NorthEast Medical Center. She was taken to the hospital from Concord Mills, where she had been shopping. She ate something at the mall before having the allergic reaction, school officials said.

The girl's family and the school knew she had the allergy, officials said.

The school system is extremely careful in its cafeterias to make sure children with peanut allergies are not exposed to peanuts, school officials said.

"We have protocol in the cafeteria," said assistant schools superintendent Jim Amendum. "We don't serve anything with peanuts unless it's sealed. Children with peanut allergies have to sit at the end of the table."

"She was a very energetic, well-known kid, lively. Just full of life, involved in lots of things," Northwest Principal Nancy Barkemeyer said Monday night, after going to Gina's visitation.

Three extra counselors were on hand Monday to help out at the school.

"We put into place everything we could think of to make sure kids had a way to work out their fears and their grief," Barkemeyer said. She also sent home a letter to parents on Monday.

"Children, like adults, deal with grief in different ways. I alerted parents to things they may want to look for," she said.

Gina's funeral will be 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Charlotte. Burial will be in St. James Catholic Church Cemetery in Concord.

The family could not be reached for comment Monday.

Barkemeyer said it will be hard to envision Northwest Middle without Gina.

"It is such a loss, just impossible to describe," she said

Innovative Biosensors Inc. has developed a rapid-detection system based on biosensor technology developed at the MIT and published in the journal Science in 2003. The system, dubbed BioFlash, is based on cellular analysis and notification of antigen risks and yields, a new diagnostic tool.

BioFlash is a patented, self-contained system consisting of genetically engineered biosensors expressing membrane bound, pathogen-specific antibodies and a calcium sensitive bioluminescent molecule. Cross-linking of the antibodies by even minute amounts of the specific pathogen leads to elevation of intracellular calcium and light emission, the company explains. The amplified light output is detected using an easy-to-use luminometer.

The BioFlash system detects pathogenic Escherichia coli O157:H7 in meat or processing plant samples down to 50 colony-forming units without cross-reaction with normal E. coli strains. The company adds that technicians can obtain reliable and accurate results within five minutes of sample collection.

The company¡¯s website -- http://www.innovativebiosensors.com ? features a clearly explained and illustrated description of the technology behind the E. coli O157:H7 test. The site also features graphics showing the sensitivity of the test.

New Regulations - New LumGiene PasliteTechnology
In anticipation of the March 1, 2005 guidelines that eliminates less sensitive colormetric methods (Scharers and Rutgers) a new automated Paslite calibration procedure is being announced. The procedure is part of the expanded LumGiene capability.

The Charm Paslite Alk Phos assay using the LumGiene technology now has an automated channel calibration to simplify set up and calibration.

The LumGiene unit also has a temperature probe to enhance repeatability and reproducibility.

The Paslite test is easy to perform and has sensitivity lower than 10 mU/L. It is performed in 3-4 minutes and up to 6 samples can be tested at one time. A feature of the Charm system is background compensation during calibration that allows very sensitive detection of low level phosphatase. This allows corrective action to pasteurization processes before they ever become a health concern at 350 mU/L.

Charm Paslite is an FDA and NZA approved method for phosphatase detection in milk, creams, flavored milks, and cheeses. It has been internationally studied in the ISO standardization process and is currently a DIS draft standard. Inquire support@charm.com for more information.

The LumGiene also has a sensitive channel feature that detects ppm residues of food and is being used in allergen HACCP cross contamination control verification. LumGiene is a comprehensive dairy HACCP tool to verify and document control processes for sanitation, pasteurization and allergen control.

New anti-microbial sealing rings

Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/

25/01/2005 - A joint development with O-ring specialist Eriks and Milliken Chemical has come up with a range of sealing rings for the dairy industry that aim to minimise the presence and effects of bacteria and microbes.

The Dutch-based Eriks group, which comprises 50 companies and is present in eight countries, is introducing a range of sealing rings for the dairy industry produced from a special rubber compound developed in conjunction with Belgian-based division of Milliken Chemical.
The compound, termed Elastoguard-HNBR, is a high temperature formulation that incorporates Milliken¡¯s Elastoguard silver-based biocide, which permeates parts moulded from the material to provide long-lasting protection against bacteria. The anti-microbial performance provided by the Elastoguard additive is said to be maintained even after parts are subjected to repeated washing and surface abrasion. The companies say that other potential applications for the compound, which is resistant to temperatures up to 150C, include seals, gaskets, profiles, castors, diaphragms and levelling feet.

The Eriks sealing rings, coloured yellow to facilitate recognition, are being injection moulded, in 10 sizes ? with outside diameters from 20mm up to 114mm ? according to the DIN 11851 standard. In addition to their anti-microbial performance and steam resistance to 150C, the rings are also said to have superior resistance to oils, grease and ageing compared with standard grades of NBR. They also provide optimum sealing characteristics. First applications for the coupling rings will be in the dairy market, but evaluation programmes are also underway with the brewing industry and food processors. Other, longer-term targets include the medical market and suppliers of laboratory equipment.

¡°The dairy industry is proving to be very positive in its acceptance of the sealing rings produced from Elastoguard-HNBR,¡± said Eriks international product manager sales and rubber, Marc van Oost. ¡°They are a cleaner product, free of microbes that require less on-line cleaning and will lead to reduced machine downtime. We expect, also, for applications to develop rapidly in other markets where there is a requirement to eliminate bacteria and microbes as completely as possible.¡±

Milliken and Eriks have a technical and commercial co-operation agreement to develop applications and markets for the Elastoguard-HNBR compound. The agreement includes visiting customers, running trials and setting up production facilities, and is already underway in Belgium, Holland, France and Germany. Subsequent developments will focus on Scandinavia and the UK. The anti-microbial technology is also applicable to other types of rubber than NBR, including EPDM, silicones and thermoplastic elastomers.

Milliken¡¯s Elastoguard anti-microbial additive is a silver-sodium-zirconium phosphate ion-exchange resin that is non-leaching. Once the moulded part has been vulcanised, the additive is encapsulated in the rubber matrix where it permeates the entire part to give skin-to-core protection. Bacteria absorb the silver ions released by the additive, which break down their cell walls and destroy them. The silver ions are also released into areas that are hard, or almost impossible, to clean with classical detergents, such as hairline cracks in seals.

The silver-based Elastoguard ion-exchange resin in Elastoguard is tasteless and odourless. It has been registered by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency).

Guidebook for the Preparation of HACCP Plans & Generic HACCP Models

Inside Microbiology: The Evolution of Food Testing: A Pioneer¡¯s Perspective
Source from : Foodsafetymagazine.com
An Interview with John H. Silliker, Ph.D.

In many quarters of the food industry, the ¡°Silliker¡± name is synonymous with food testing and with good reason. Dr. John H. Silliker opened Silliker Laboratories in 1967 with three full-time technicians, a temperamental autoclave and a dream. Today, with 27 laboratories in 11 countries, Silliker, Inc. is widely recognized as one of the preeminent food testing and quality assurance organizations in the world.
A pioneer in Salmonella research, Dr. Silliker worked for nine years at Chicago-based Swift and Co., rising to the position of chief microbiologist and associate director of research, before founding Silliker Laboratories in south suburban Chicago Heights, IL. During his long and illustrious career, Dr. Silliker served on the International Commission for the Microbiological Specification for Foods (ICMSF), the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, and was an early proponent of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system.

The International Association for Food Protection (Harold Barnum Award), American Academy of Microbiology (Fellow), Institute of Food Technologists (Fellow) and NSF International (Lifetime Achievement Award for Research) are among the leading scientific organizations that have recognized his numerous contributions to food science. Now semi-retired, Dr. Silliker, the author of more than 80 publications, serves as a senior consultant for Silliker, Inc.

Dr. Silliker recently spent some time with Food Safety Magazine to share his insights on issues and trends in today¡¯s food testing industry.

Food Safety Magazine: In your opinion, what are some of the major factors that have greatly contributed to the tremendous growth we have seen in the food testing industry?

Silliker: When I started Silliker Laboratories, the food testing industry?if you call it an industry at that time ? was basically comprised of a small number of private laboratories that primarily performed chemical testing. Silliker was strictly devoted to microbiology testing back then, which made us something of a novelty. Dairy producers, under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance that was originated in the mid 1920s, were required to perform standard plate counts under intense regulatory inspection and many companies had on-site testing rooms where trained technicians dutifully ran these tests.

In the early 1960s, with the hiring of James Goddard as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food safety in the U.S. entered into a protracted period of change and modernization. During this period, as the country experienced escalating incidents of foodborne illness due to salmonellosis, it became increasingly evident that clinical methods, which were widely used at the time, did not provide the accuracy or reliability needed for the identification of Salmonella. Clinical methods were particularly ineffective in isolating debilitated or injured pathogenic cells in food products.

Goddard, along with a host of leading scientific groups, championed the development of microbiological methods to address this issue and improve safety standards in the United States. A couple of years later, the FDA declared that that there shall be no Salmonella in processed foods, and this decree placed the food industry on its ear.

We were still learning much about Salmonella in the 1960s, and to compensate for this learning curve numerous food companies started testing everything under the sun for Salmonella to meet the FDA mandate. The agency was vigilant in collecting incredible number of samples from plants and if the agency found any evidence of Salmonella the product was subject to seizure. As a result of this, many well-known products had to be removed from the market. Needless to say, this led to plenty of consternation in the food industry and had many bewildered companies asking how many samples must they collect.

The National Research Council Committee on Salmonella was appointed to study this problem. The report of this committee included sampling plans for various categories of foods based upon risk. For example, the most critical products required the analysis of 60 25-gram samples with all having to be negative to meet the criterion for safety. Obviously, this was a cumbersome and extremely expensive requirement. Silliker Laboratories, working under an USDA grant through the ICMSF, demonstrated that large composite samples, comprised of multiple 25-g samples, could be analyzed to obviate the necessity for large numbers of 25-g samples. The four 375-g composite sampling program?as opposed to 60 25-gram samples?for the most critical category that was later approved by the FDA was the culmination of this research.

Without question, the FDA¡¯s decree on Salmonella was one, if not the, defining event that paved the way for the immense growth we have seen in the food testing industry. In succeeding years, as analytical food testing continued to evolve both in scope and sophistication to meet new safety challenges posed by E. coli and other emerging pathogens, testing laboratories flourished geographically across the nation to serve the booming food industry.

The tremendous growth that we have enjoyed has allowed us to attract some of the brightest, best, and most industrious minds to work in our industry, and this is another critical factor that has greatly contributed to our expansion.

Food Safety Magazine: What significance has the recent advent of ISO accreditation played in the food industry?

Silliker: At the dawn of the 1990s, many of our foreign trading partners had laboratory accreditation systems, but we did not have an accreditation system in the United States. With the rapid expansion of the global food market, it became increasingly clear to those of us in the food testing industry that proactive measures were needed to fill this major and troublesome void.

This occurred in 1996 when the Microbiology Food Laboratory Accred-itation Working Group (FLAWG), an ad hoc group led by my friend and colleague Russ Flowers, undertook the enormous task of developing accreditation criteria based on guidelines that were forged by the highly respected International Standards Organization (ISO). Due to the landmark efforts of FLAWG, ISO 17025 serves today as the basis of laboratory accreditation for food testing laboratories in more than 35 countries. Around the world, ISO 17025 accredited laboratories employ recognized standardized methods and adhere to management and technical requirements to ensure the validity, integrity and consistency of analytical results.

ISO accreditation has played an important role in minimizing testing discrepancies and disputes among trading partners and serves as an international benchmark for excellence. It has raised the quality bar in the food testing industry and, to a certain degree, heightened the competitive stakes among food testing providers. Food companies, both here and abroad, readily acknowledge that a certificate of analysis from an ISO accredited laboratory provides them with greater confidence that their data can withstand the most intense scrutiny of regulators around the world.

Food Safety Magazine: How has the role of food testing labs evolved over the years?

Silliker: Needless to say, the food industry has changed dramatically over the past five decades, and the food testing industry has evolved with it. HACCP, increased regulatory oversight, consumer advocacy groups, global supply chains, emerging pathogens and countless other measures have resulted in the food industry placing a higher premium on minimizing microbiological, chemical and physical risks in the manufacture of products.To accomplish this objective, processors, retailers, foodservice companies, and distributors are increasingly seeking the assistance of food safety organizations to help them establish effective environmental programs, verify their sanitation standard operating procedures, and understand the implication of new regulatory actions on their products and processes. Over the years, many laboratories have augmented their analytical testing services with safety and quality initiatives ranging from HACCP consulting to educational short courses to help the food industry meet greater regulatory and consumer safety demands.

While diversification is surely a good thing, diversification just for the sake of taking advantage of new opportunities is not. Food testing laboratories should be wholly committed to providing their customers with the best possible services, and hiring and retaining skilled professionals that can help companies meet the rigid demands and challenges they confront on a daily basis.

I remain steadfast in insisting that there is no substitution or replacement for experience and knowledge in the application of food science. When a plant wants to know how an allergenic substance got into their production line or why their environmental control program is not yielding reliable data, scientific theory espoused by unseasoned professionals will not elicit great confidence from companies. Therefore, it is extremely important for food testing laboratories to employ experienced professionals who know their way around a processing plant, understand the many intricacies of HACCP, and possess a thorough knowledge of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) to conduct a meaningful and productive employee training workshop.

It is one thing to hang out a new shingle; having the expertise, experience and credibility to support that shingle is imperative in gaining and keeping the respect of the companies you serve.

Food Safety Magazine: What are some of the major challenges that will ¡°test¡± food testing providers in the years ahead?

Silliker: At this stage in my career, I find myself on the receiving end of this type of question on a semi-regular basis and I wish I could provide you with a profound answer worthy of Socrates. If there is one thing that I have learned in 50-odd years of food microbiology it is that it is wise to leave the prediction business to the folks who make a living at it in Las Vegas.
Gazing into a crystal ball in an attempt to forecast what will be our next major analytical or safety challenge is an intriguing, though often futile, exercise that I attempt to avoid at all costs. I do this because our past experiences with Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and E. coli O157:H7 have taught us the unforgettable and valuable lesson that the food safety landscape is susceptible to momentous change virtually overnight.

Somewhere a long time ago I read a quote that stated that no commodity in society is more important than food; that without it, civilization as we know it would cease to exist. In partnership with the food industry, we bear the enormous responsibility of protecting the safety, quality and nutrition of food products for consumers. With this as our guiding light, food testing laboratories must continuously invest in new technologies, research and training to ensure they are properly prepared to take on new and unexpected challenges that history has shown us are inevitable.

John H. Silliker, Ph.D.

 

TO GO FOODHACCP.com MAIN PAGE, CLICK ON HERE