Foodborne Bacteria: Do You Know How They Grow?

Food safety concerns are on all food manufacturers’ minds (and, honestly, probably in their dreams too), so it is critical to know how bacteria grow.  Armed with that knowledge, we are better able to stay ahead of bacterial contamination in the food manufacturing facilities.

Petri dish with bacteria.

Petri dish with bacteria. Source: processingmagazine.com

Often, when I was in the plant environment, I would refer back to a case study put together by the Royal Society for Public Health in 2010. It laid out some excellent basics on growth factors for bacteria in a concise manner that readers of The Wide Line may appreciate.

The RSPH states, “In order to grow, bacteria require a source of nutrients, an appropriate atmosphere, neutral or alkaline conditions, available moisture and an appropriate temperature. (In turn), the nutrient source needs to have available moisture, a source of energy, nitrogen, vitamins, and minerals.” A large number of bacteria are able to grow with or without oxygen. Some bacteria (obligate aerobes), will only grow if oxygen is present. Other bacteria (obligate anaerobes) will only grow in the absence of oxygen.

The RSPH’s “Growth Requirements of Bacteria” section continues: “Most bacteria grow best in a neutral or alkaline environment. Bacteria do not grow well in foods which are too acidic (with a pH of less than 4.5).”  So, the more acidic the food, the less likely it is to support the growth of bacteria.  In addition, foods that are dried or high in salt or sugar have a reduction in available moisture content, and bacteria will grow poorly on these foods.

Finally, “Most bacteria will not grow in cold conditions, or will only grow and divide slowly. High temperatures will also inhibit the growth of bacteria.”  For example, most food poisoning bacteria die when exposed to a temperature of 70°C for two minutes or more. The optimum temperature range for the growth of most bacteria is 5°C to 63°C, which is known as the ‘temperature danger zone’.

The RSPH concisely acknowledges that there are multiple areas in all food production facilities that need to be assessed for risk regularly, as well as monitored daily in order to prevent microbiological product contamination. All processing steps have the potential to increase the chance of microbial corruption.  Nelson-Jameson carries food safety products that assist with control and surveillance in every step of the production process—from ingredient receiving through manufacturing, storage, and shipping of finished products.  Contact a sales representative today to find out how Nelson-Jameson can help strengthen your food safety prevention and protocol.

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Testing the Water

j0444789What is the difference between water activity and water “moisture” content? Well, it all depends on what you want to achieve. Do you want to monitor the amount of water and dry matter present in a product? Or do you want to increase and monitor the shelf stability of a product?

“Water ‘moisture’ content is the amount of water contained in a product”. Measuring water “moisture” content is better used to determine quality of the process. For example, if the product is a cheese powder that is spray dried, it is common practice to measure the water “moisture” content to determine yield and to ascertain if your drying process is running according to the diagnosed plan.

Water activity is defined as the measurement of the availability of free water for biological reactions—especially the biological reactions that can make humans and animals very sick.  Water activity is more critical in the food industry. Bacteria love water; gram-negative bacteria like E.coli need a minimum of .97 moisture content for growth, and the Staphylococcal toxin produced by Staphylococcus aureus only needs a minimum of .93 for growth. To put this into perspective, know that pure water’s moisture content is 1.00. Thus, it is critical for food manufacturers to know and monitor the water activity before, during, and after manufacturing for safety. See the table below for the water activity and content levels of common foods:

Water Activity of Common Foods (aw)

fresh meats and fish:                     0.99

moist cakes:                                       0.90-0.95

soy sauce:                                           0.80

jams, marmalades, jellies:            0.75-0.80

dried spices, milk powder:           0.20-0.60

Water Content of Common Foods (%)

apples:                 84

peppers:              92

salami, beef       60

dried fruit            31

wheat flour        11

Water activity is crucial to food safety. Microbes are everywhere, and will find any way possible to a food source, ultimately causing spoilage. Moisture analysis monitoring processes are set up to eliminate as many microbes as possible, with the key to moisture control and water activity being to find ways to bind the water so that it doesn’t allow microbes to find a food source—thus extending a product’s shelf life. Contact one of Nelson Jameson’s product specialists today to discuss your moisture analysis and water activity needs.

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BrewExpo America 2016: A Stake In Philly, Not a Rocky Commitment…

logo@1xAs Nelson-Jameson continues to supply the craft beer industry with a mixture of laboratory products, maintenance/repair/operations supplies, and processing products, we are always on the lookout for resources that can help us anticipate our brewery customers’ needs. If you haven’t been before, the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® is a prolific place to take in the newest developments in the industry from a rich array of industry professionals and suppliers.

Nelson-Jameson will be in attendance this year at Brew Expo America® in Philadelphia. Whether you are talking lab supplies, instrumentation and equipment, color-coded offerings, hosing, or even engineering products and services through our sister company Kaestner, we’re here to help!

I personally will be sitting in with Nasco, maker of the very popular Whirl-Pak® bag, on Wednesday, May 4th. If you will be attending the show, I would like to invite you to booth #3714 to check out an array of Whirl-Pak products, as well as discussing any supply needs that your brewery may have that Nelson-Jameson could provide.

Then, on Thursday, May 5th, Jeff Turnbull, Technical Sales Specialist, will be sitting in with Allied Purchasing (booth #3521).  Jeff will be there to discuss how Allied and Nelson-Jameson can help you with an array of products, including processing and flow control offerings.

For more information on the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® click here.  To sneak a peek into our Whirl-Pak offerings before the show, click here.  To check out Allied Purchasing, click here.

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Become a “Preventive Controls Qualified Individual” Today!

In Nelson-Jameson’s continued commitment to provide industry professionals with the latest in food science and food safety education, we’ve partnered with Cherney Microbiological Services to offer a brand new course offering!  The upcoming “FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food” is a class that will be of special interest to those in plant operations, and will focus on Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance.  As an added bonus, Nelson-Jameson customers will receive a 5% discount, simply by mentioning “Nelson Jameson” when registering!

Image courtesy Cherney Microbiological Services.

Continuing Food Safety Education through FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food course

The Food Safety Modernization Act is the most extensive change to food safety laws in 70 years, shifting the industry perspective from a reactive to a proactive approach when addressing and preventing food contamination. The new regulations require specified activities to be completed by a “Preventive Controls Qualified Individual” who has “successfully completed training in the development and application of risk-based preventive controls.” The FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food course helps support both compliance with FSMA and provides FDA-recognized training for your designated Preventive Controls Qualified Individual. This standardized course was developed by the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) in partnership with the FDA, and the lead instructors and course content and materials are FSPCA-approved.

The FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food course is a great fit for quality directors, managers, supervisors and practitioners who will be responsible for managing his or her company’s Food Safety Plan under FSMA.  This course will be held March 29th-31st, 2016, at Cherney Microbiological Services in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The cost is $800, but be sure to mention “Nelson Jameson” while registering to receive a 5% discount!  To register, please click HERE.

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The New Word in Lab Supply: Lab∙alog™

Nelson-Jameson-FINAL-2For our blog readers, a bit of special preview this week! Nelson-Jameson is proud to announce the release of our first area-specific catalog! In mid-April, keep an eye out for our appropriately named catalog focusing on the Food and Beverage Laboratory: Nelson-Jameson’s Lab∙alog™.

The catalog took roots thanks to our customers’ suggestions that they would appreciate us putting together a catalog that specifically addressed laboratory needs within an operation. It is no secret that our general catalog’s spine becomes more and more stressed with each edition by the sheer weight of the hundreds of pages of products! This will be a way to reach out to a specific set of customer needs in a new, streamlined fashion.

We have brought together an excellent array of products that customers focused on food safety and QA/QC are looking for on a daily basis. The process has also allowed us to fine tune our offerings and highlight products that are in demand in this new era of food safety regulation. Special features, like a color insert featuring 3M Food Safety products, easy to reference product headings, and other useful tools are set to be part of the finished product that should bring everything together nicely into an impressive final package. Stay tuned for further news!