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Food safety and fresh produce

December 2003
CAST (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology) Commentary
Recent outbreaks of food-related illnesses have increased many peoples concerns about the safety of fresh fruits and vegetablesregardless of whether the cause is hepatitis A, Escherichia coli (E. coli), or some other foodborne microorganism. These concerns already had increased during the past decade when, due primarily to an increased awareness of the health benefits fresh produce provides, people in the United States were eating more of these foods. When mom told us to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, she knew what she was talking about: these foods contain compounds that help decrease the risk of many illnesses, including cancer and macular degeneration. In addition, consumers in the United States expect to have a multitude of fresh produce available year round. To supply this demand, the produce industry has developed a distribution system to move both domestic and foreign produce to the dinner table.
The recent outbreak of hepatitis A in Pennsylvania, which killed three people and sickened more than 600, has raised new concerns about the safety of this supply and distribution system. The source of the outbreak was identified as green onions (scallions) and, as a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers not to eat uncooked green onions for the time being. As the story unfolds, can this tragic outbreak teach any valuable lessons about the safety of our food supply chain? Should other fresh produce items be avoided as well?
It is useful to remember that pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms are not part of the natural microorganisms found on or in fresh produce. Therefore, any disease-causing microbes present on fruits or vegetables are there because of inadvertent contamination, which can occur when produce comes in contact with dirty water, equipment, or storage containers; unsanitary human handlers and food preparers; and/or pests. Contamination can occur in the field or at any point in the food supply chain from production to table.
The fresh-produce processing industry uses various tools to decrease microbial contamination on products. Sanitary operating procedures common to the entire food processing industry include pest control, facility sanitation, worker hygiene, and temperature control. Fresh-produce processors often take specific steps to clean fruits and vegetables, including high-pressure washes, scrubbing, trimming, and peeling.
Many processors, especially in the fresh-cut produce industry, also use sanitizing washes or dips to clean produce. These dips rely on chlorine or other sanitizers to kill harmful microbes. All the treatments, when properly applied, will substantially decreasebut may not eliminatemicrobial contamination.
Consumers can take several actions to decrease their risk from disease-causing microbes on fresh fruits and vegetables. Because most microbial contamination is present on the skin or outer layers of produce, washing and peeling are effective ways to lessen the number of harmful microorganisms present.
?Wash produce with clean water before eating. (Household soaps and other cleansers are not recommended; they may not be effective in killing or removing pathogens and may leave harmful residue on the produce that poses a greater risk than any microbes potentially present.)
?Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a produce brush during washing.
?Cut out damaged or bruised areas before eating.
?Control temperature of produce to prevent microbial growth.
?Refrigerate fresh produce that requires cool temperatures (below 45°F, 7°C)
?Avoid leaving cut melons at room temperature for more than two hours.
?Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often.
?Avoid cross-contaminating ready-to-eat foods with raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
These techniques are highly recommended to enhance the safety of fresh produce, but may not be sufficient to remove all pathogens present. This is especially true for leafy greens and other hard-to-wash produce. The only sure way for consumers to eliminate harmful microorganisms in fresh fruits and vegetables is through cooking. Heating fruits or vegetables to a temperature of 160F (71C) or greater is enough to kill the pathogenic microorganisms that may be present. Of course, no one wants a cooked green salad.
But folks who are particularly susceptible to foodborne illness children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems want to avoid higher-risk fresh, uncooked produce.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and at state land-grant universities are working to decrease the risk of contamination on fresh produce even further. In 1998, the FDA and the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (The Guide). Later, Cornell University released Food Safety Begins on the Farm ?a Growers Guide. These publications, which have been well received, spell out what producers, packers, and distributors of fresh produce must do to decrease the risk of produce contamination.
One lesson to learn from the Pennsylvania hepatitis outbreak is this: There is no magic bullet?to eliminate harmful microorganisms in all fresh foods. No single treatment will do it; that is why a comprehensive food safety system, from farm to table, is essential to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
No link in the food supply chain can be ignored: evidence collected so far from the Pennsylvania outbreak suggests that the green onions already were contaminated with the hepatitis virus when they entered the restaurant, but that poor food-handling practices in the restaurant spread the virus to more people than otherwise would have been infected. Progress has been made in developing and implementing a food safety system for fresh produce, and all of the measures currently in place will decrease risk, especially as more is learned about which practices work best. But even the best system cannot eliminate risk. As The Guide states, Current technologies cannot eliminate all potential food safety hazards associated with fresh produce that will be eaten raw.?br>Another lesson that may be lost in the clamor surrounding these events is that real health benefits come with a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. But there also are real food safety risks and it is important to manage these risks, especially for particularly susceptible individuals. Consumers should be aware of outbreaks as they occur, heed official warnings, and follow good food-handling practices. With a little caution and common sense, we all can keep following moms advice about eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lynn Brandenberger William McGlynn
Vegetable Crops Specialist Horticultural Food Scientist
Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Food and Agricultural Product Center Food and Agricultural Product Center
Oklahoma State University Oklahoma State University
Michael P. Doyle, Center for Food Safety
The University of Georgia, Griffin
More information on this topic is available from these sources:
FDA Advises Consumers about Fresh Produce
Food Marketing Institute. FMI Introduces Best Practices Guide for Fresh-Cut Produce.

Food Safety Begins on the Farm; A Growers Guide
Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Iowa State University Food Safety Website.
The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) assembles, interprets, and communicates science-based
information regionally, nationally, and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource, and related
societal and environmental issues to our stakeholderslegislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private
sector, and the public. For more information, call 515-292-2125 or email cast@cast-science.org.

Is the U.S. vulnerable to food-borne bioterrorism?
December 8, 2003
From a press release
MIAMI -- That Americans are eating more each day is nothing new. However, this can take on an entirely different meaning should there be an issue with the safety of our food supply. To put the issue into perspective, the U.S. per capita consumption of food grew from an average 1,800 pounds per year in the early 1980s to more than 2,000 pounds in recent years according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In fact, this long-term trend has favored the need for more imports of foreign-grown food products from all over the world. The import share of U.S.- consumed food climbed from 8 percent to more than 11 percent in recent years. This increase in agricultural trade, especially in the wake of September 11th, is currently perceived by some as a possible window of opportunity for a bioterrorist attack on our food supply. Indeed, past accidental foodborne outbreaks have suggested the potential for large numbers of casualties from foodborne bioterrorism.
Each year an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness occur in the United States, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Over 325,000 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths are associated with foodborne diseases each year.
As the U.S. continues to negotiate free trade agreements with many of its neighbors to the south, food safety standards will surely become an issue of concern.
Some questions of importance are as follows:
* Do current food safety measures go far enough? Do we have bioterrorism standards or only sanitation regulations?
* Are they so stringent that they curtail trade?
* Are U.S-sponsored measures so drastic that smaller nations will no longer be able to export their goods?
* Are concerns about Cuba's development of biological warfare through its biotechnology industry real?
Federico Sacasa, executive director of non-governmental agency Caribbean- Central America Action (CCAA), advocates two controversial measures to deal with the situation: a) extending U.S. customs into the region and, b) "shipping" U.S. customs inspectors to conduct checks prior to goods arriving in the U.S. "This would not only expedite the process but would also be less expensive," he says.
CCAA's "Strengthening the Third Border" conference will address these and other related topics with renowned experts. Dr. Elsa Murano, Undersecretary for Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture will address a plenary session of the conference on Tuesday, December 9th, 9:30am to 10:30am. On Tuesday afternoon, a CCAA agribusiness panel on "Antibioterrorism Measures and Trade" will specifically focus on the above issues.
WHAT/WHEN: CCAA's "Strengthening the Third Border"
Plenary Address: Tuesday, December 9, 2003 at 9:30am
Panel - Anti-Bioterrorism Measures and Trade.
Tuesday, December 9, 2003 at 2:00 pm
WHERE: Loews Hotel
1601 Collins Avenue,
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
* Linda Swacina, Deputy Administrator, Food Inspection and Safety
Service, USDA
* Peter Quinter, Partner, Becker and Poliakoff , PA
* Miguel Garcia Winder, Director Comercio y Agronegocios, IICA
* Gabriel Pascual, President, Central America-US Chamber of Commerce
Federico Sacasa, Executive Director of CCAA, Peter Quinter and Miguel Garcia are available for interviews either before or during the conference. CCAA, formerly Caribbean Latin American Action (CLAA), will hold its 27th Annual Conference on the Caribbean Basin, titled "Strengthening the Third Border," from December 8-10 in Miami. The conference will address key challenges faced by Central America's and Caribbean economies and their impact on the U.S. and Florida specifically. To view a full conference agenda, click http://www.claa.org/03conf--schd.html .

New U.S. bioterror rules loom for food firms
December 9, 2003
Michael Christie
MIAMI - Industry officials were cited as saying on Tuesday that new bioterrorism measures that force food and beverage suppliers to the U.S. market to register with the government will jack up food costs and could wreak havoc with supplies,.
The story says that with only 100,000 of an estimated 400,000 suppliers having registered before Friday's deadline, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given domestic and foreign companies four more months to comply with the new rules drawn up as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.
But once the grace period expires, U.S. food supplies could be thrown into chaos if suppliers to big U.S. food firms are blackballed by the FDA.
Mari Stull, director of international regulatory policy at the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America, which represents $500 billion in food sales, was quoted as saying, "This four-month honeymoon phase is going to be a real wake-up call to those companies that don't understand this actually impacts them. And it's going to be a real wake-up call to some of the big companies here in the United States that haven't been really sure that their supply chain is complying.

Label law


- 10/12/2003 - The UK’s Food Standards Agency has launched a consultation on the use of alternative phrases to 'may contain' on food labels. The phrase is currently used by manufacturers on pre-packaged food to indicate the possible presence of ingredients, such as peanuts, to which people may be allergic.

But in recent years, consumer groups have raised concerns over the phrase that appears on many food labels. Some believe that it is overused, and that unnecessary use of the phrase on certain products can undermine valid warnings.
As a result, the FSA recently launched a study into appropriate labelling. This focused on nut trace contamination (NTC) labelling, as nuts and peanuts are recognised as the most likely food allergens to trigger serious allergic symptoms. Many UK manufacturers and retailers already indicate their presence on the packet, especially if there is a risk of contamination during processing.

The report attempted to determine the prevalence of such labelling. In a basket of everyday food items (selected because they do not normally contain nuts as ingredients), the FSA found that 56 per cent of the products indicated a risk of nut trace contamination. At the same time however, nut-allergic consumers were unable to buy a match or substitute for 18 per cent of the items listed. In addition, in many cases, they were forced to accept a substitute or poorer quality product. As a result, they took 39 per cent longer to shop and, incredibly, paid 11 per cent more on average.

On products examined, the FSA found that ingredient information was allocated an average of 2.6 per cent of the packaging area. Additional allergen information covered an average of 0.53 per cent. In addition, it would appear that long-established industry guidelines to make labelling clear are often ignored. Over a third of all products examined had key information in poor colour combinations and the FSA found that there was little consistency in labelling style between different retailers or manufacturers. These and other factors make it very difficult for allergic consumers to find and read essential information.

Biscuits, cereals and confectionery are most commonly cited by nut allergic consumers as those products that are hard to find without nut trace contamination information. Packaging examined often displayed nut trace contamination information that was not always noticed by the shoppers or sorters. Similar allergen warnings on a variety of products may reflect very different degrees of risk to the allergic consumer.

Following completion of the study, a number of key recommendations have been made. These include improved labelling of all ingredients on all foods, clearer allergen information, and support for manufacturers who are determined to remove nuts from their production. The FSA also believes that it is important to undertake regular reviews of the quality and legibility of all essential information on pre-packed foods.

A number of alternative phrases have also been developed. At present the Food Standards Agency is consulting on the following alternative warnings: Not suitable for peanut/nut/sesame allergic consumers and Not suitable for people with peanut/nut/sesame allergy. Although it is not a legal requirement for manufacturers to label in this way, manufacturers will be encouraged to use the appropriate phrases in the future.

These latest developments will be under the spotlight when the Food Labelling Forum holds its next meeting on 21 January 2004. The meeting will provide manufacturers and consumer bodies with the opportunity to debate current labelling issues. Presentations will be given on health and nutrition claims, food authenticity, and allergen labelling. There will also be a question and answer session on general labelling issues.

Is your kitchen clean enough?
Germs can spoil your holiday buffet

The Courier-Journal


Photo illustration by MIKE COVINGTON
This is the season when many of us cook extravagantly for family gatherings, open-house party buffets and workplace potlucks.

This month all sorts of tasty treats, from oysters to mail-order cheeses, make their way into our homes ?homes that we may view as safer eating places than restaurants given the recent hepatitis A outbreak in a Chi-Chi's in Pennsylvania.

But if you've been getting by on takeout and prepared foods, you may have lost your grasp of how to properly handle raw ingredients.

If you've been relying heavily on your microwave, you may need a refresher course on the cooking temperatures needed for food safety.

And then there's the business of the leftovers and how to store them and chill them.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Safety Inspection Service, there are three party-crashers you don't want at your holiday buffets:Invader 1: Staphylococcus aureus
Invader 2: Clostridium perfringens
Invader 3: Listeria monocytogenes

INVADER No. 1: Staphylococcus aureus, known as "staph" bacteria for short, are found on the skin, in infected cuts and in our nasal passages and throats. They spread with improper food handling.

Symptoms: Severe nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Can put you out of commission for two to three days or longer if severe dehydration occurs.

Defense: Wash hands and utensils before preparing and handling food. Don't let prepared foods ?particularly cured and cooked meats, cheese and meat salads ?sit at room temperature more than two hours.

INVADER No. 2: Clostridium perfringens is called the "cafeteria germ" because it's sometimes found in foods served in quantity and left for long periods at room temperature.

Symptoms: Diarrhea and gas pains in eight to 24 hours after eating. The worst of it usually lasts only a day, but less severe symptoms may go on for one to two weeks.

Defense: Divide large portions of cooked foods ?such as meats, gravies, stews, casseroles and dressing ?into smaller portions for serving. Keep cooked foods hot if you're serving them hot and cold if you're serving them cold. Don't keep them lukewarm.

INVADER No. 3: Listeria monocytogenes bacteria multiply at refrigeration temperatures, although slowly, and can be found in cold foods served at buffets.

Symptoms: You may take up to three weeks to become ill and when you do you will have fever, chills, headache, backache, abdominal pain and diarrhea. If you're pregnant, elderly or have a weakened immune system, you could become more seriously ill.

Defense: Follow "keep refrigerated" label directions and "sell by" and "use by" dates on processed foods. Thoroughly reheat frozen or refrigerated processed meat and poultry products before eating them.

In general, if you suspect food has made you sick, call your health department if you think it was served at a large gathering or commercial establishment.

If symptoms persist or are severe ?such as bloody diarrhea, excessive nausea and vomiting, or high fever ?seek medical help.

About 76 million Americans become infected by their food each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 2 million suffer long-term medical complications, and about 325,000 end up in the hospital. More than 5,000 die from eating contaminated food.

Hand washing is the most effective tool in the prevention of food-borne illnesses. If you're preparing food, first wash your hands ?scrubbing briskly and rinsing ?for at least 20 seconds under warm water.

Wash again after handling uncooked meat, poultry or fish or after any other activity that contaminates the hands.

Paper towels, washable cutting boards, kitchen thermometers, shallow containers for leftovers and insulated containers for transporting foods also are effective weapons in the war against food pathogens, said Anita Travis, manager of the food safety branch of the Kentucky Cabinets for Health Services.

"Paper towels are much better than cloth towels around the kitchen," Travis said. "I try not to have those out. They're just too easy to use."
Raw and uncooked eggs, poultry, meat and seafood can contain another illness-producing bacteria, Salmonella.

So if you touch cloth towels with contaminated hands, you can recontaminate your kitchen even after you've thoroughly washed surfaces on which the raw food were prepared.

Forget about sponges. They're not even permitted in commercial kitchens. If you have a plastic pot scrubber, make sure you sterilize it frequently by running it through the dishwasher.

If you must use cloth dishrags and towels, be aware of the circumstances under which you're using them and change them frequently, experts said.

Experts recommend a chlorine/water final rinse for dishes and utensils washed by hand. About a capful of chlorine in a dishpan of water will do the trick. Then allow the dishes to air dry.

If you wash dishes in a dishwasher, where the hot water temperature will sterilize the dishes, don't overcrowd the machine or it won't be able to do the job properly.

Never cut raw foods and ready-to-eat foods on the same cutting boards or put cooked foods on platters that had just held them in their raw state.

Don't let your raw foods and their juices mingle with other foods in your grocery cart or refrigerator.

It's best to thaw that turkey or other frozen meat in the refrigerator. Remember: A 16-pound bird takes three to four days to thaw. If you cook a bird that isn't thoroughly thawed, you risk serving undercooked meat.

Get a cooking thermometer and appliance thermometers. You can't tell by looking if food is done, and you don't know if your oven or refrigerator is at the right temperature if you don't test it.
Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees. When cooking meat or poultry, an oven should be set at 325 degrees or higher. Test your refrigerator to see if it gets down to 40 and your oven to see if it reaches the minimum 325.

It's a good practice to test the temperature of foods when cooking.

Never let leftovers sit out more than two hours.

Shallow containers are better for storing leftovers. Your refrigerator will do a better job of cooling down smaller portions in shallow containers.

Clean out the fridge and get it organized before the big party or meal. If leftovers overcrowd it, the refrigerator can't do a good job.

Don't leave leftovers in the fridge for more than three to four days. Think about freezing some of your leftovers immediately after a party or meal if you have a lot.

Get some insulated containers for transporting dishes to potlucks. Hot foods should be kept hot. Cold foods should be kept cold.

For more info:
Cooking temps for turkey: www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/countdown.htm

Cooking temps for "other" holiday meats: www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/holmeats.htm

About kitchen thermometers: www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/thermy/bro_text.htm

Click for "What you need to know about hepatitis A"

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High level of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause food poisoning


More than 40% of bacteria found in chicken on sale in Switzerland is resistant to at least one antibiotic, says research published this week in BMC Public Health. The findings could have implications for treating food poisoning.
The bacteria, Campylobacter, causes between 5 and 14 percent of all diarrhoeal illness worldwide. The most common sources of infection are inadequately cooked meat, particularly poultry, unpasteurised milk and contaminated drinking water. The illness normally clears up after a week, without treatment. But small children and people with a weakened immune system often take antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to the bloodstream ?and causing life threatening septicaemia.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office collected raw poultry meat samples from 122 retail outlets across Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and tested their antibiotic resistance. From 415 meat samples, they isolated 91 strains of Campylobacter, 59% of which were sensitive to all the antibiotics tested.

19 strains (22%) were resistant to one antibiotic, 9 strains (10%) to two antibiotics, and 8 strains (9%) were resistant to at least three antibiotics. Two strains were resistant to five antibiotics. One of these showed resistance to ciprofloxacin, tetracycline and erythromycin ?the most important antibiotics for treating Campylobacter infection in humans.

Meat was more likely to be infected with Campylobacter if it was kept chilled, rather than frozen. However, the storage conditions did not affect the frequency of antibiotic resistance in the bacteria.

Although the frequency of antibiotic resistance in Switzerland may seem high, meat produced in the country was, in fact, less likely to be infected with antibiotic resistant Campylobacter than meat produced elsewhere. J?g Danuser commented: "The level of antibiotic resistance in Campylobacter depends on the amount of antibiotics that the chickens received. Maybe in Switzerland antibiotics were used less, so there is less resistance"

Initially, the researchers thought that poultry was more likely to be infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria if it was raised using conventional indoor farming methods rather than in an animal-friendly way. However, the majority of meat produced in an animal friendly way came from Switzerland, and this skewed the results. The researchers therefore concluded that only the country of origin and not the farming methods were likely to influence the level of antibiotic resistance in the bacteria.

J?g Danuser discussed this: "It's possible that chickens raised in an animal-friendly way are more healthy, so they need less treatment with antibiotics and so their Campylobacter are less resistant to antibiotics. But the other side of the story is that these chickens go outside more often, so they are in more contact with wild birds, which is the reservoir of Campylobacter."

These findings are of concern for Swiss consumers, but, as mentioned above, the picture for other countries is even bleaker. The researchers wrote: "The high prevalence of Campylobacter in raw poultry meat samples found in this study agrees with data from other studies." In the USA, 90% of Campylobacter strains isolated from poultry meat had resistance to at least one, and 45% to at least two antibiotics.

Worries over antibiotic resistant bacteria led the EU to ban the use of four antibiotics as growth promoters in chickens, in 1999. The US Food and Drugs administration (FDA) followed their lead in late 2000, by banning the use of a particular class of antibiotics called fluorquinolones in poultry farming.

Food poisoning caused by eating Campylobacter infected poultry is on the increase. In Switzerland, 1 in 1,086 people suffer from Campylobacter infection every year; the number is approximately ten times higher in the US.

FDA: Customs Agents To Help Protect Food Imports
By Julie Vorman

Thousands of U.S. Customs officers will help investigate food imports to prevent bioterror attacks on vegetables, fruits, processed foods and animal feed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday.

The FDA said a new agreement with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will expand the FDA's ability to check the safety of food shipments arriving by sea and air.

"We are committed to using the bioterrorism law to safeguard our food supply to the fullest extent possible, without imposing any unnecessary costs or restrictions on food imports," said FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan.

Under the federal Bioterrorism Act now in effect, the FDA can order the detention of any food or animal feed if there is "credible evidence" that it presents a health threat.

By working together, the FDA can use Customs agents to conduct investigations related to the FDA's recently issued rules requiring prior notice of food imports before the shipment arrives.

Last month, Republican Sen. Susan Collins urged Congress to pay more attention to protecting the nation's $1.24 trillion food and agriculture sector from sabotage or attacks. She said U.S. agriculture documents have been recovered from al Qaeda caves and safe houses in Afghanistan.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the FDA and the U.S. Agriculture Department have increased the number of veterinarians and meat inspectors, introduced stricter import regulations and enhanced laboratory security.

Another recent FDA initiative requires the registration of more than 400,000 facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold human or animal food for the U.S. market.

The FDA will use Customs' electronic communications systems to reduce the length of prior notice by food importers to 2 to 8 hours, depending on the mode of transportation, the agency said.

The FDA also announced on Wednesday that it will finalize by the end of March 2004 rules requiring recordkeeping for food shipments and detention for food shipments that may pose a threat to humans or animals.

"In the meantime, we have taken steps to make sure that food that presents a threat will be detained and all available records will be used to track down significant food risks," McClellan said. 12-3-03

Non-contact, core temperature sensor developed

IFT Daily News


12/11/2003-Thinkage, one of several food ventures established by the Murray Hill, New Jersey-based BOC and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) are working together to develop a non-contact, core temperature sensor for use in preparing and processing ready-to-eat food products. According to Mark Grace, president, Thinkage, the new system combines two technologies to measure the core temperature of cooked products - a 3-D
stereo imaging system and infrared sensors. "Several measurements of a product are taken during various stages of cooking and cool-down," says Grace. "Using this data, the system then composes and compares a series of images to determine the maximum temperature reached in the core." Grace points out that Thinkage's Think Gates(tm) service already incorporates a core temperature probe that is effective for use with
products such as hamburger patties that have a consistent form. "The problem arises," he says, "with irregularly-shaped products such as chicken wings,
primal meat cuts such as chops and ribs, and certain cooked bakery and seafood products. Processors need a way to account for variability in the size and shape of a product in order to accurately determine its core
temperature." Grace says, "Fully cooked products represent one of the fastest growing segments of the prepared foods market. The challenge for processors is to insure that products are fully-cooked without being overcooked to a point where yield and quality are compromised."
Craig Wyvill, division chief, GTRI, explains, "Currently, processors have to rely on the hand-insertion of a thermometer to determine the core
temperature of cooked products, a practice that is subject to human error and variation. Consequently, in order to ensure food safety, processors often cook products to an internal temperature that is as much as 20 higher than is minimally necessary to kill pathogens. That extra 20 not only degrades taste, but it also costs the food industry hundreds of
millions of dollars a year in yield loss and higher energy usage." John Stewart, GTRI's lead researcher on the development project, points out that chicken patties decrease in weight by 0.7 percent for every 5 beyond 160 - the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's mandated minimal core temperature for cooked chicken patties. He says, "Assuming that a typical cooking line operating at 165* F outputs 3,000 pounds per hour of chicken patties for 16 hours each day for 260 days per year, that 0.7 percent loss
translates to nearly 900,000 pounds of product lost each year on a single line."

BBL CHROMagarO157, A New Chromogenic Formulation,
Differentiates E. coli O157 From Other E. coli Strains On the Primary Plate


BD Diagnostic Systems, Sparks, MD, announces the immediate availability of BBL?CHROMagar?O157, a chromogenic medium with a highly specific enzymatic reaction that isolates and presumptively identifies E. coli O157.

Designed for the testing of human, food or environmental samples, BBL?CHROMagar?O157 can differentiate E. coli O157 from other E. coli strains. A chromogenic reaction creates mauve-colored colonies of E. coli O157. Other E. coli strains will either be inhibited or grow as blue to blue-green colonies. Also, unlike MacConkey-based media, BBL?CHROMagar?O157 detects sorbitol-negative and positive strains - with fewer false positives than the MacConkey-based media.1 With fewer false positives, other costs can be reduced as well with BBL?CHROMagar?O157, such as latex agglutination, subculturing and biochemical identification. Confirmatory tests are necessary for definitive identification.

With BBL?CHROMagar?O157 the lab technologist may save 24 to 48 hours in obtaining final results as compared to conventional MacConkey-based media.1 In addition, most Proteus, Pseudomonas and Aeromonas strains are inhibited by this medium. BBL?CHROMagar?O157 is also compatible with latex reagent test kits.

BBL?CHROMagar?O157 is the latest addition to the BBL?CHROMagar?media line, which already includes BBL?CHROMagar?Orientation, BBL?CHROMagar?Candida, BBL?CHROMagar?Salmonella and BBL?CHROMagar?Staph aureus.

For more information on BBL?CHROMagar?O157, please call 1-800-638-8663, or contact your BD Diagnostic Systems representative.

All trademarks are the property of Becton, Dickinson and Company, except CHROMagar, which is a trademark of Dr. A. Rambach. ?2003 BD.

Early Detection of Botulism Toxins


Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed a device that speeds the detection of a virulent strain of botulism neurotoxin from hours or days to minutes, making treatment or vaccination more effective.

Botulinum neurotoxin B, one of five strains that are known to be toxic to humans, is targeted in the paper that appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper's authors included UC Riverside Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience Vladimir Parpura and Umar Mohideen, a professor of physics, both part of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering at UC Riverside; graduate student Wei Liu; staff researcher Vedrana Montana; and Edwin Chapman, a professor of physiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Given its rapid detection and small size, the device, known as a micromechanosensor, will find applications in medicine, in the war against bioterrorism or in the food industry, Parpura said.

"Of course a good deal of testing needs to be done first," Parpura said. "What we've done is shown proof that the principle works."

The principle, he added, works much like a fishing pole and line. A protein-coated bead at the end of a microscopic cantilever comes in contact with the neurotoxin, which cuts through the protein strands connecting the two, much like a fish would cut through a fishing line. The bead's separation causes the cantilever to vibrate, announcing the neurotoxin's presence. While effective, the process is not yet ready for practical application.

"Right now the issue is that it's linked to an atomic-force microscope, an expensive piece of equipment, which means it cannot be used on a widespread basis," Parpura said.

However, he holds out hope that the process could soon be put into wider practice to detect one of the most potent toxins known to man. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta list botulism as one of the six most dangerous bioterrorism threats. Other such bio-threats include anthrax, plague and smallpox.

"The important thing to note is that the technique is very general and, in the future, can be done without the use of the atomic- force microscope. This also means that it will find uses in fields outside (medical) toxin sensors," said Mohideen, adding that the process can be used in food and water quality applications.

The key to the process, however, is its timeliness, according to the researchers. Antitoxin vaccinations can work only if applied quickly, before the onset of symptoms. Symptoms of food-borne botulism intoxication frequently take from 12 to 36 hours to develop, according to the CDC.

"When you think that we've cut the detection time from a few hours or a couple of days, down to a few minutes, that's what's important," Parpura said. "The shorter the detection time, the more time you have to treat people and that makes a great deal of difference when dealing with this neurotoxin."

"We are working on approaches to further reduce the detection time and substantially improve the sensitivity," Mohideen added.

Botulism, while rare in the United States, is considered a medical emergency in which roughly 10 percent of those afflicted die. Those who survive may take weeks or months to recover and frequently undergo intensive hospital care with extensive use of ventilators.

Unique new on-line method to detect foreign materials in food
November 2003
?esund Food Excellence
Swedish Food Radar System has filed patents for a new technology for detection of most kinds of foreign bodies in foods. “Foreign bodies?refer to all solid materials, such as glass, wood, plastic, bone, shells, rubber, cartilage, seed and metal. Hitherto it has only been possible to detect metals. The new technology is a breakthrough for online quality control of food products and stems from the markets demand on cost-effective methods to detect foreign bodies in liquid and dry large volumes as well as in packed foods.
Foreign bodies are detected in embedding material by transmitting low power microwaves through the material. The transmitted microwaves are detected in such a way that the damping and the runtime of the microwaves are available as measurement data. Traditionally only far field responses are used in radar systems. Using near fields makes it possible to detect very small objects. Traditional radar can detect objects that are around 5 cm in air or 1.5 cm in water. The nearfield microwave radar can detect objects in the size of 2 ?3 mm.
The inventors, Mikael Reimers and Harald Merkel, have since 1998 conducted a development project together with SIK, the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology. A company, Food Radar Systems AB, to commercialise the innovation has been formed by the inventors, Chalmersinvest (Chalmers University of Technology) and SIK.