Category: Education

Listeria vs The Dairy Industry

In February I had the opportunity to attend the “Artisan Dairy Producer Food Safety Initiative Workshop” to learn about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) along with other leaders in the dairy industry here in Wisconsin. It was put on by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association and was offered at no expense thanks to a generous grant from USDA-NIFA. Marianne Smukowski, from the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) and Matt Mathison from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) were the trainers for the workshop. The workshop was a brief overview of the expectations that the FDA has put before every business in the food industry, from the large to the small plants. This workshop was geared towards the dairy industry, focusing on the hazards that arise, and how to put a detailed plan together to prevent them. One of the hazards that was of special interest, especially due to the sheer amount of news coverage that it has gotten in the previous months, was the elimination and prevention of Listeria monocytongenes in raw milk, cheeses, and Ready-to-Eat (RTEs) products.

Listeria monocytongenes is a gram-positive microorganism that does not form itself into a spore when dormant, doesn’t need oxygen to reproduce and can grow between -0.4 and 50° C (31.28 and 122° F). L. monocytongenes can be found in numerous places in our environment, including water, soil, dust, plants, animal feed, feces, and sewage. When it comes to the dairy plant, Listeria has been mostly found in moist environments including drains, floors, coolers, conveyors, and case washing areas. Pasteurizing is the most effective way of destroying Listeria, but if post-contamination occurs Listeria growth can swiftly get out of control. Listeria can quickly multiply to dangerous levels, and despite proper refrigeration can continue to multiply.

Listeriosis is the foodborne illness that is caused by Listeria monocytongenes. It is estimated that it affects 1,600 people every year in the U.S and it is known to kill 19.5% of those sickened by it. Much like any foodborne illness it can affect the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and it is also known to impair and sometimes kill fetuses.

So what can be done to prevent the contamination of Listeria? First and foremost a detailed safety plan that segregates raw milk and the tools and equipment used before pasteurization from the pasteurized milk is absolutely necessary. This can be assisted by using a color-coding system to keep brushes, squeegees, pails, etc. from being cross-contaminated with raw milk. Just recently Nelson-Jameson put out a new Color-Coded Catalog highlighting the numerous products that can be put in place to create a zoning system to prevent the cross-contamination that is so dangerous to product. You can check out that catalog here. Another important part of preventing Listeria is developing an environmental cleaning, sanitizing and monitoring program. Nelson-Jameson carries a variety of ATP monitoring systems to help with this. Check out this previously featured, easy-to-understand blog, that breaks down what ATP is and what luminometers can do to assist in ensuring cleaning efficacy. We also carry quick swabs that can specifically be used to test equipment for Listeria.

Unfortunately, recalls due to Listeria keep popping up. Nelson-Jameson is provides the tools and instruments to help prevent recalls. Not only does Nelson-Jameson provide you the luminometers, swabs, brushes, and other equipment needed, but we also do our best to help our customers search out educational opportunities that can be so powerful in helping understand and combat food safety threats.

For instance, our partners at Cherney College have a variety of classes that could be helpful in preventing Listeria along with any other microorganisms from entering product. Some of the classes from Cherney college include: “Environmental Monitoring & Sanitation Essentials,” “Introduction to Food Microbiology-The Basics,” “Advanced Food Microbiology” along with a few others. Check out their website for dates. Mention that you are a Nelson-Jameson customer at checkout and receive 10%. In addition, the CDR has some great short courses, including, “Wisconsin Cleaning and Sanitation Workshop,” “HACCP Workshop,”, and “Milk Pasteurization” that can assist with helping plants become safer. Together, and through educational opportunities like those mentioned here, the food and dairy industries can take on the challenges of the Food Safety Modernization Act, fight food safety threats like Listeria, and ensure a safe food supply for the nation.


NCIMS Considers Another Proposal to Lower Somatic Cell Counts

The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) is scheduled to meet in May 12-17 in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will be considering a proposal for lowering the maximum allowable somatic cell count (SCC) in milk to 400,000 cells per milliliter. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has long been a proponent of lowering the SCC threshold to 400,000 cells/ml. The current threshold is 750,000 cells per milliliter. The European Union (EU) and other countries have adopted the 400,000 cell/ml standard, placing import bans on any dairy products sourced from farms with SCCs above that level.

SCC levels measure dead white blood cells in milk, an indication of mammary gland infections. Lower levels of somatic cells indicate higher quality milk. Some federal milk marketing orders have a 350,000 cells/ml threshold to determine milk quality premiums. Dairy processors believe that lower SCC thresholds impact cheese yield, taste and shelf life.

Nelson-Jameson offers several PortaCheck products to help dairy farmers monitor the SCC of individual cows in their herd. UdderCheck LDH Milk Test is an effective tool in monitoring udder health. It measures Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH), an enzyme present in milk when cells are damaged during an udder infection. LDH levels often rise earlier than somatic cell counts, making it an excellent marker for early detection of mastitis.

PortaCheck also offers two somatic cell count tests for on-farm detection of sub-clinical mastitis. The PortaSCC Milk Test is used with a color chart or digital reader. It has a 45 minute reaction time and numerical results are projected by the digital reader. The PortaSCC Quick Test is based on the same technology as the original test, but it has a faster reaction time of 5-6 minutes. It uses a test strip which is compared to a color chart to give a general level of SCC. Read more about these tests here, or check out the instructional video.

 


Edible Packaging? Are we ready?

edible burger

Credit: NY Daily News

Back in 1960s, Roald Dahl’s imagination ran away with Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory in Charlie and Chocolate Factory where Willy Wonka, Oompa-Loompas, and the Everlasting Gobstopper were created. In 1971 the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was released into theaters where we watched Willy Wonka drink from a tea cup and then eat it. It has been 45 years since the movie was created, and the age of edible or innovative packaging is becoming a reality.

If we take the time to think about the amount of packaging we use on just one item, we might rethink what we could do differently. For example, as I’m writing this article I am eating a bag of microwave popcorn. The popcorn comes in a bag, the bag is in a cellophane wrapper, and the wrapped popcorn bag was in a box, inside another box that it was shipped in. That’s FOUR layers of packaging to get to the popcorn. According to the EPA based on the 2013 Fact Sheet, Americans alone generated about 254 million TONS of trash and composted over 87 million tons of this material. [See the statistics by clicking here!]   One can easily see that our environment needs a break from the waste that we, as humans create.

Just recently the American Chemical Society introduced a packaging film made of milk protein, casein. According to research leader Peggy Tomasula, D.Sc., “ The protein-based films are powerful oxygen blockers that help prevent food spoilage. When used in packaging, they could prevent food waste during distribution along the food chain.” [Learn more by clicking here.] Currently most food packaging is petroleum-based which puts additional unnecessary stress on our environment, with plastic taking up to 1,000 years to completely decompose. So by the time my kid is a grandparent, the plastic I’m using today still might not be decomposed.

At first the film was hard to handle and would easily dissolve in water too quickly. When citrus pectin was added to the blend the packaging became even stronger. Not only did it become stronger but it was more resistant to humidity and high temperatures. In the future, nutritious additives such as vitamins, probiotics and nutraceuticals could be added. Also, though casein doesn’t have a lot of flavor, flavors could actually be added in the future.  

There are several drawbacks to casein-based packaging along with other edible packaging would require a secondary package to protect the edible packaging from getting wet and dissolving, or getting dirty and contaminated with microbes, becoming unsuitable for consumption. This issue also lies with other edible packaging developments.   Edible packaging also has an uphill battle of overcoming the public’s’ perception of eating the packaging that their food comes in, and trusting what they are consuming is healthy and won’t cause further health concerns like cancer down the road.

Casein is far from being the only player in the edible packaging sphere.   For example, Loliware edible drinking cups; Bob’s Brazilian Hamburger WrapsWikiCells, which are edible bites like yogurt balls by Stonyfield Organic; and Vivos Films are all creations of companies looking to package food with these new delivery methods.    

Just think about it, we already eat apples, peaches, and other fruit and vegetable with the skins on. Those skins are fruits and vegetables own packaging. We eat that so why can’t we eat an environmentally-friendly  cup that is made from sweeteners, filtered water, seaweed, and other natural flavors derived from fruits and vegetables?     Maybe Willy Wonka wasn’t so far off…perhaps we can have our tea, and eat the cup and saucer too…


Back to School: All Year Long!

Cherney

As a new school year starts in many parts of the country, we’re more than likely overdue for those “Back to School” banners to be taken down in the big box stores and be replaced with an onslaught of Halloween products and advertisements.   It was a good two months of active marketing, but now it’s time to move on, right?   Truthfully, “back to school” is a mindset that doesn’t know a season and doesn’t get pushed aside for fun-size candy bars (as wonderful as they may be).

“Back to school” could be seen as a life-long mantra of continuing education and professional development.   In the food industry, if it weren’t for continuing education and training, we would never be able to keep up with consumer, regulatory, food safety and quality demands.  That’s why Nelson-Jameson is continuing to work with Cherney College, part of Cherney Microbiological Services, to offer an array of courses targeted at food industry professionals.   Cherney College offers courses year-round, addressing topics from basic food safety all the way to advanced food microbiology and FSMA Preventive Controls.

Courses are held in Green Bay, WI; however, some courses and training sessions can actually be held right on site, at your facility, to save time and travel expenses for groups.

Thanks to our partnership, Nelson-Jameson customers get an exclusive 5% discount on all course offerings!   Use promo code “Nelson-Jameson” when signing up for any of the courses featured at “cherneymicro.com.”