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.


Key Food and Beverage Trends for 2017

Now that we’re well into the 2017, it’s safe to say that certain foods and beverages are outshining others in regards to new product launches, menu appearances and overall hype. As always, Nelson-Jameson is here to digest all of these culinary crazes into bite-sized highlights with our annual food and beverage trends blog! Here’s what we predict will be more than just a flash in the pan:

You Don’t Know Jack…Yet

Plant-based meat alternatives are gaining major traction in both the restaurant and grocery worlds, which means we’re likely to see a veggie-centric shift in the variety of tasty protein sources available to supplement a healthy diet. Jackfruit, an Asian tree fruit that’s part of the mulberry family, has a fibrous flesh suitable for replacing pulled pork in recipes. Low in carbs and calories but high in protein and potassium, it provides a healthful yet hearty boost to tacos, barbeque, sandwiches, curries and more.

You will also see meat substitutes be given more of an equal-billing in your local food retail establishments. Vegetarian and Vegan “butcher” shops are popping up in urban areas such as Minneapolis and New York; and, supermarkets such as Whole Foods, have begun to merchandise Beyond Meat, a ground meat alternative (and Nelson-Jameson customer!), alongside its beefy peers in the butcher case. Looks like veggies will be moving up to entrée status on a more regular basis!

Label Maker

A major trend in the dairy category this year will be ‘Clean Label’. Clean Label foods are generally those that are minimally processed, natural or organic, “free-from” certain additives and/or have simple, understandable ingredients. In other words, clean label is all about transparency to the consumer. The concept is being hailed as the new “global standard” in dairy processing, and is predicted to eventually incorporate the entire supply chain. It’s advised that dairy processors view clean label as a strategic approach to “increase consumer trust and to mitigate brand risk” and focus on “back to basics” product formulation. It looks like the approach will likely be profitable– -studies claim that 75% of consumers are willing to pay more for clean label products.

Sweet Talk

Many have hailed 2016 as the “Year of the Sugar Tax”, and it appears that things aren’t going to slow down on the legislative front in 2017 with many cities, states and countries considering versions of sugar taxes in the name of health. In the United States, the FDA will require the that the “Nutrition Facts” label on packaged foods list the added sugars separately from total sugars beginning in 2018. Globally, food manufacturers have been reformulating their products to comply with both the trend and various laws, with a “low sugar” claim seemingly being the sweet spot. However, words like “low” and “added” seem to be somewhat subjective, and some in the food industry plan to respond to sugar legislation with litigation. It looks like we may be in for one long, bittersweet ride.

Health Club

As these three food and beverage trends highlight, health is at the forefront in 2017. Look for lots of buzzwords like “better for you”, “free-from”, “clean label”, “organic” and “natural” on food packaging, restaurant menus and in food marketing. Because for food processors this year, health truly may mean wealth.

Totalled Recall

There have been times in the past when I became ill with a supposed food-borne illness, or found a bug in a product in my home and wondered did that come from my kitchen or did it come from the manufacturer? From my experience of working in the food industry I know that every comment that came in had to be investigated. I would have to go up to our retention samples, find the lot number that the customer was commenting on, and do some investigation. This included looking at the certificate of analysis to see what the bacterial counts were at, looking at the production log from that lot, and looking at batch test reports. Depending on the severity of the comment or the frequency of the comments from the same lot number, determined how far we took the investigation. Thankfully, in my time in the plant,  I was never part of a recall, but recalls are definitely a reality of the modern food industry that companies should consider.   

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Recalls can happen for a number of reasons including: undeclared allergens; contamination with a pathogen such E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes or Salmonella; foreign object contamination such as plastic, glass or metal fragments; nutrient imbalance, along with numerous  others. Recalls can be costly and they can affect a company in three different ways that are useful to keep in mind.   

First and foremost are direct costs. According to Sam Lewis of Food Online, average direct costs of a recall comes in at about 10 million dollars.  This is assuming that no one becomes sick, injured or dies from the product. Direct cost begin to start adding up initially, in dealing with regulatory bodies, including making them aware of what is going on. Once a recall is initiated, the recalling company submits their recall strategy to either the FDA or FSIS. Then, of course, there are the costs of retrieving the affected product, its storage, and proper disposal.   While the product is being retrieved, companies can count on an exhaustive look into documentation, HACCP plan, and GMPs used during the time frame of the recalled product, in principle, finding the root cause of what happened to cause the product to be contaminated. Were employees washing their hands, wearing gloves? Was the metal detector working and in place, were the right safety precautions taken to prevent a metal, glass, or plastic fragment from falling into the product? These questions along with many others have to be asked along with a plan to prevent another recall from happening again. This plan also has to be submitted to the regulatory bodies so they know that you are being responsible in the handling of the situation.

Secondly, the cost of lost sales can also be another tough pill to swallow.  No product goes unturned until the problem is figured out. That means a long drawn out downtime on production lines, tanks, etc. until the root cause is figured out and a plan is in place and approved to prevent it from happening again.  In addition to the cost of any food that needs to be recalled, downtime unrelentingly keeps cutting the bottom line throughout the recall process.  However, the true costs of a recall doesn’t stop there.     

A third cost to consider, is the cost that a recall can have on a company’s reputation.   Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can take a food safety case quickly from the privacy of a few kitchens quickly over to the court of public opinion, when it takes just seconds to share a post with friends, family, and anyone who will listen.   For PR departments trying to manage a company and brand identity in the midst of a potential recall situation, this can be a frustrating Pandora’s Box to have opened.  

Coupled with general media coverage, and word of mouth, social media combines to form a powerful voice that can change consumer choices for weeks, for years, or forever down the road:     

“In a Harris Interactive Poll, consumers indicated that 55% would switch brands temporarily following a recall, and 15% said they would never purchase the recalled product and 21% would avoid purchasing any brand made by the manufacturer of the recalled product.” Read Here.

When these three kinds of costs are added up, you can see why some food processors never recover from the financial strains a recall can put on an operation.    Here at Nelson-Jameson we are here to give you the tools, equipment, and knowledge you need to help avoid recalls, produce a consistent and safe product, and to keep your customers coming back for more.

A Focus on Our Farm Friends

cosNelson-Jameson has been the “one stop shop” for the food processing industry for almost 70 years providing cheesemakers, dairy processors, breweries, food manufacturers and other industries with products in a wide range of categories.  Food processors may be the largest customer for Nelson-Jameson products, but dairy farms are also an important part of our business.  Dairy producers can purchase a variety of products including cleaners, sanitizers, teat dips and udder washes, drum and pail pumps, hose, nozzles and reels, brooms and brushes, milk filters, cow towels for prepping udders, milk filters, needles and syringes, gloves and footwear, and many other supplies.   

Producing high quality milk is very important to dairy producers.  We provide a variety of testing kits for on-the-farm testing of antibiotic residues being the primary distributor of Delvotest kits in the United States.  In addition, our PortaCheck products can help monitor Somatic Cell Counts (SCC) of individual dairy cows or herds and can be used for early detection of mastitis.  Herd managers can also monitor the bacteriology of the herd through on-farm culturing of milk samples with a 3M Petrifilm™-based testing system.  Test kits and meters are also available for detecting ketosis in dairy cattle.

Getting dairy calves off to a good start is crucial for dairy calf managers.  Brix refractometers are available from Nelson-Jameson that can be used to identify high-quality colostrum and improve your ability to raise healthy calves.  Another tool that is proving to be valuable for calf raisers is the ATP luminometer.  These can be used for checking the cleanliness of calf feeding equipment through ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) testing.  We offer a selection of swabs and luminometers.  These are just a few of our products that can meet the needs of dairy producers.

Dairy farmers can consult with the experienced staff at Nelson-Jameson for help in producing high quality milk, for their dairy equipment sanitation needs and for monitoring herd health through testing and early detection of problems.  Ask for a free online subscription to our quarterly “Farm Tales” newsletter for brief articles on the use of products provided by Nelson-Jameson that will assist in the management and profitability of your dairy herd.  Call 1-800-826-8302 for your dairy farm product needs or to subscribe to “Farm Tales.”


Sussing Out Sampling in the Food Processing Environment

If you are in a position of responsibility for your company’s food safety program, you may be faced with deciding which sampling products to choose from, in a market that has no shortage of available items and product options.

To get to the bottom of what is right for your operation, you will need to ask, “What do I want to accomplish with my sampling and testing program and what media will work best?”

The cleaning and sanitization methods that are implemented in your food production facilities need to be effective in reducing potential pathogens.  There are many different chemicals and sanitizers utilized throughout the food industry, with each company designing their procedures to meet the specific cleaning required.  These sanitization chemicals must be considered when choosing your sample handling media.

The environmental monitoring program you have designed should detect any post sanitizing molecular cell life that may be present after the sanitization step.  The residuals of the sanitizers could affect the recovery of any remaining indicator or pathogen organisms that were injured or stressed by these chemicals.

Therefore a neutralizing buffer should be selected that will effectively deactivate the remaining sanitizer and allow for the recovery of any surviving organisms.

Another factor that influences which buffer to choose is what test methodology is being used, or do specific regulatory compliance methods recommend a specific type of media.  If you utilize a contract laboratory to test your microbiological samples you should contact them to determine which media they recommend for the procedures they will be conducting.

The food industry most commonly uses neutralizing buffer but also utilizes letheen broth and D/E neutralizing buffer.

Labalog cover

After the proper collection media has been selected, there are several options of sample collect tools to choose from.  Swabs are commonly used when sampling small areas approximately 4 inch x 4 inch.  If your sampling will exceed that size a sponge type of application should be selected.

If you are doing pathogen sampling, a 12 inch x 12 inch sampling area is recommended.

Keeping in mind a few of these basic concepts, you can make more informed choices on what sampling products to select.   Check out our Labalog HERE to see our wide line of sampling, testing, and monitoring products to choose from for your facility’s specific needs.   We’re here to help and make sure you get the products that are perfectly geared to your operation and needs.