Category: Food Safety

Heterofermentative Spores in Milk and the Resulting Quality Issues

In recent months, it has come to our attention that there has been an increase in quality problems caused by Heterofermentative lactic bacteria that are not from starter cultures. These bacteria have been found growing on biofilms in the pasteurizer regen section of milk HTST’s, in some silage inoculants, in dairy powders and liquids used to fortify milk for cheesemaking, and on individual farms with certain cleaning issues. Once these are in the milk, they can’t be removed by pasteurization and will carry through into the cheese and whey powder by-products.

The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) in Madison has seen an increase in quality defects in cheese including off flavors such as “sour” gas formation in retail packages of cheese and cracking defects in blocks of cheese. Many companies are starting to include specifications for low spore count non-fat powders, liquid condensed skim and UF milk products, and also whey powders used in many other foods. There is also evidence of excess viscosity of buttermilk and sour cream from this contaminant.

What can the cheesemaker do to solve these issues?

  • While there is no substitute for good cleaning and sanitation, there are tests available for these contaminants such as 3M’s Lactic Acid Petrifilm. Petrifilm can be used to test milk from the regen section of the HTST, screen milk loads from the farm, and test finished whey products. We have some plants already trying to locate sources of these spores by using Petrifilm.
  • We have at least one DSM cheese culture being used to improve cheese flavors, especially in aged Cheddars. This culture is referred to as RF-4 from DSM. The culture is added to the cheese vat milk and competes with other contaminants to impede their multiplication and the off flavors and possibly gas that result from them.
  • Eliminate biofilms in all milk handling equipment either at the plant or on the farm. We sell both 3M (LM1) and Hygiena (EnSURE & SystemSURE PLUS) ATP Luminometers that verify cleaning processes by the use of bioluminescence technology, and provide the customer with a numerical value to determine their cleaning effectiveness on food contact surfaces.
  • There is some research that suggests certain silage inoculants can carry through into the milk supply. The CDR is still looking at this potential source.
  • Ask for help and advice. We have a variety of industry people we can contact to visit the plants and farms to help troubleshoot.

Contact one of our Product Specialists today for additional information!

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New 3M™ Products & Updates

Unfortunately there are no shortage of food recalls due to allergens. Allergens are a serious business for the food industry and, of course, for consumers. Now there is a new line of allergen tests from a company with a familiar name synonymous with food safety testing to help take on this serious concern.3M Rapid Allergen Protein Test Kits are a Lateral Flow format, that provide significant savings and peace of mind. These Allergen Kits can test finished product, and environmental verification of allergy free food contact surfaces!

What these quick tests can provide is security that one of the “Big 8” is not present when a customer is starting up production after cleaning and sanitizing. What is the “Big 8?” Allergens…Dairy, Wheat (Gluten), Eggs, Peanut, Tree Nuts, Fish, Crustacean Fish, and Soy. The only allergen that 3M does not offer in the Lateral Flow format is the Crustacean Fish allergen, but they do offer it in the ELISA format.

The 18-24 hour Rapid E.coli/Coliform Petrifilm™ Plate is another new offering from 3M that we are excited to add to our line! It is a two-in-one indicator plate for both E.coli and Coliform, which works well with a wide variety of food samples. Previously, Coliform has always been 24 hours for indication of growth, but E.coli testing took 48 hours, which reduces release of product by a full day for basic microbiological testing when using this and the Rapid Aerobic Count Petrifilm Plates.

Regarding Petrifilm, you will start to notice a new, very clean looking package on all their Petrifilm products! All the packages are a redesigned white pack with easy-to-spot color-coded labels.

Lastly, we are setting up the new offering for the 3M Molecular Detection System, which is for the detection of Campylobacter (considered one of the leading causes of bacterial gastroenteritis in humans). Infections are usually caused by consuming cross-contaminated or insufficiently processed foods (typically red meat, poultry, shellfish and unpasteurized milk).

For additional information on these items or our full range of 3M products visit our website or contact our Lab Department today!

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FDA’s Food Safety Plan Builder Software

In the demanding everyday life of a food manufacturer it can be hard to slow down and think about the safety of the products being manufactured. Everything from the ingredients that come in the door to the way the product is shipped out to the customer, all have to be monitored for safety. That is what the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is all about, making sure the ingredients, the process, and how the end product is shipped out reduces the level of risk to the consumer. The manufacturing facility has to ask, what can be done to prevent the various risks in the plant from happening and causing a recall?

A Food Safety Plan is a robust, detailed plan that is meant to anticipate and meet these challenges. A cohesive plan is based on food safety principles which include: hazard analysis, preventative controls, supply-chain programs, and a recall plan. For smaller businesses, putting a Food Safety Plan in place and maintaining that Plan can be daunting. Where do you start? Making sense of the regulatory language can be difficult, making it hard to determine what the FDA is going to be looking for if you were to receive an audit.

After some feedback from the food industry, the FDA created a free software tool, called the Food Safety Plan Builder. It is a tool designed to assist owners/operators of food facilities with the development of food safety plans that are specific to their facilities, and to assist them in meeting the requirements of the current regulations. Using this software is not required by the FDA, but facilities may find it of use as they continue to critically engage their Food Safety Plans.

Filling out all the information that the software requests can be labor intensive but with some effort and investment though, the Builder can act as a great framework to build upon.  According to Eric Edmunds, food safety director with The Acheson Group, “as with any other electronic tool, the product that you get out of it is as good as the information you put into it!”

If you are interested in using this tool here is the website:
https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm539791.htm

The bottom line is that there are no shortcuts in creating a culture of food safety. Tools like the Builder are excellent resources to engage and assist in implementing comprehensive programs, but don’t make a complete toolbox in themselves. While food law and requirements can be laborious to understand and read they are important to get right. FSMA was created so that food facilities are held responsible for every bit of food safety including the supply chain from one facility to another. The FDA wants food facilities to know that when guidelines are followed and a good a Food Safety Plan is in place they are setting themselves up for success.

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Protect Product Integrity with Metal Detectable Products

Using Metal Detectable Products in your facility is a great way to ensure the product that you ship out does not contain foreign materials. Metal Detectable Products are products that can be detected by a metal detector. In plastic products, such as pens, a metallic pigment is added to the resin during the manufacturing process, and it is this pigment that is actually detected by the metal detector. Other products, earplugs for example, contain a stainless steel ball bearing, which is then detected by the metal detector.

Having your Metal Detector calibrated to the correct settings is key to being able to detect foreign contaminants. The settings that you will need to use are based on many factors including the speed of the line, moisture content, and the material of the contaminant. Using calibration tools will help to determine what size of foreign material will be detected by your metal detector.

Nelson-Jameson offers a wide range of Metal Detectable Products, from pens and markers to scrapers and mallets. We also have several Metal Detectable Products that are also color-coded to help prevent cross-contamination in your facility. View our entire line of Metal Detectable Products or request a copy of our new 24-page flyer.

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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.