Tag Archives: foodborne illness

On the Frontlines Against Hepatitis A

Wash. Your. Hands. This simple act can do so much to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. Lately, this has been highlighted most unwelcomingly with a continued outbreak of the hepatitis A virus nationally. The virus, which infects the liver, can cause symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. that may last weeks to months.  

According to the FDA, though only representing a portion of cases in the US, cases from food handling are a significant concern for food industry stakeholders and consumers, as well: “The majority of hepatitis A infections are from unknown causes or from being in close contact with an infected person; however, some hepatitis A infections are caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Contamination of food and water can occur when an infected food handler prepares food without appropriate handwashing hygiene.” From handling food in the fields to the food service counter, hepatitis A should be considered a serious foodborne threat…but one that can be combated.    

In terms of foodborne cases, hand hygiene is a key method of defending against the virus (vaccination is the best way to prevent, overall) for the food industry and for consumers. According to the CDC, “Frequent handwashing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or before preparing food can help prevent the spread of hepatitis A.”

As part of our commitment to helping customers make safe, quality food, we offer an array of hand hygiene solutions for the food and beverage industries. To check out our latest Hand Hygiene Products flyer, click here. Our product specialists are also available to help you develop the right program to make hand hygiene a frontline defense against foodborne illness.

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Your Safe, Quality Food is our Business

Nelson-Jameson takes food safety very seriously, and we know that you do too. That is why we offer a wealth of products and solutions that can help your facility reduce the risk of foodborne illness and contamination. From Color-Coding and Metal Detectable to Hand Hygiene and Environmental Testing – we have many programs available to help ensure your processing facilities are compliant, providing safe, quality food to all.

To talk to one of our food safety experts about these programs or to receive an informational flyer featuring these programs, give us a call at 800-826-8302 or visit our website today!

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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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Summer Food Safety for Moms-To-Be

Source: Downthemeadow.com

Source: Downthemeadow.com

Summer is here, and if you’re like us in the lab, you have sunshine, beaches, backyard cookouts, picnics, and Listeria monocytogenes on your mind. Warm weather and good food are two things we can all appreciate; however, unfortunately these conditions are also ideal for foodborne illness caused by Listeria.

According to the USDA’s Crystal McDade-Ngutter, Ph.D: “Listeria monocytogenes is a dangerous bacterium that you should be on the lookout for all year round—especially in the summer months. Listeria can cause a foodborne illness called listeriosis. It can grow at refrigeration temperatures and is one of the deadliest foodborne illnesses.” Listeriosis can be fatal, and is especially dangerous to numerous populations, including pregnant women.

For those expecting or hosting someone that is expecting at their next summer barbeque or picnic, consider these preventative measures that can help keep pregnant women and their mini-barbeque/picnic goer safe this summer:

  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.
    • It is safe to eat hard cheeses, semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella, pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads.
    • It is safe to eat canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is an ingredient in a cooked dish such as a casserole. Examples of refrigerated smoked seafood include salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel which are most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” This fish is found in the refrigerated section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens.
    • It is safe to eat canned fish such as salmon and tuna or shelf-stable smoked seafood.
  • Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain unpasteurized milk.
  • Use all refrigerated perishable items that are precooked or ready-to-eat as soon as possible.
  • Clean your refrigerator regularly.
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure that the refrigerator always stays at 40 °F or below.

Follow these tips to ensure that you and your little one have a fun and safe summer. For additional summer food safety tips, check out Krisina Beaugh’s “Checklist For the Perfect Summer Picnic.”

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