In the world of virulent foodborne pathogens, Campylobacter and Salmonella have become the chief culprits, responsible for nearly 70 percent of all such illnesses in the U.S. last year. Detecting these and other bacteria in the food supply is a matter of growing urgency for both government regulators and the food industry. As the food chain expands globally, manufacturers are being held increasingly responsible for preventing outbreaks under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
You Might Also Like
Explore this issueAugust/September 2017
Also by this Author
“We are making progress in detecting and responding more quickly to foodborne illness, but our priority remains preventing illnesses from happening in the first place,” says Susan Mayne, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
Campylobacter is commonly associated with consumption of raw or undercooked poultry and meat, while Salmonella is an issue in many types of food, including eggs, meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts. Both bacteria can cause mild to severe illness, from uncomplicated diarrhea to severe systemic infections, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (Campylobacter), an autoimmune disease that can cause paralysis, and reactive arthritis (Salmonella), which can cause acute, debilitating joint pain.
“In order to decrease the likelihood of these pathogens in the food chain, it is essential to analyze the raw material, the environment where the food is produced, and food products at different manufacturing stages; for example niches where Salmonella could be harbored in the environment that could cause cross-contamination,” says Claudia Narvaez, PhD, professor of food science at the University of Manitoba, Canada.
Advances in laboratory and onsite testing equipment are allowing manufacturers to more easily and economically sample their raw ingredients, environment and facilities, and finished products for evidence of bacterial contamination, thus greatly reducing the potential for a recall, or worse. These developments include time-of-flight mass spectrometry, bacteriophage-based assays, novel biosensors, as well as advances in traditional techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
“Test methods continue to improve, with many methods now available that give results within 24 hours of sample receipt by the lab,” explains Timothy Freier, PhD, vice president for scientific affairs and microbiology at Mérieux NutriSciences (North America). But he also urges caution. “With these faster turn-around times, test methods are walking the line between incubation time and detection capabilities, so careful validation of these ultra-rapid methods is crucial,” Dr. Freier tells Food Quality & Safety magazine.
About Ted Agres
Ted Agres is an award-winning writer who covers food safety regulatory and legislative issues from the nation’s capital in the Washington Report column. He has 40 years of experience in reporting on issues such as health policy, medical technology, and pharmaceutical development. He holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. He enjoys playing the piano, amateur radio, and paintball. He lives in Laurel, MD. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.