content tagged as Food Microbiology

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Biosensors are emerging as a potentially revolutionary technology in the study and rapid detection of foodborne pathogens, toxins, allergens, contaminants, and indicators of food quality.

Low-moisture foods, such as flour and peanut butter, have made national headlines in the past few years due to foodborne illness outbreaks associated with pathogens in these products.
Consumers demand mildly-processed foods with enhanced safety, extended shelf-life, and fresh-like quality attributes. High pressure processing enables the food processors to pasteurize or sterilize food products with extended shelf life, develop cleaner label products and reduce food waste. Speakers representing academia, equipment manufacturers and the food industry will discuss high pressure technology principles, high pressure equipment design, and selection and operation for industrial practices. Approaches for microbial validation of high pressure processed foods as well as selection of suitable surrogates for high pressure processed products will be discussed. Practical considerations while formulating products for high pressure processing will also be reviewed.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is an emerging technology that allows scientists to map the genetic sequence of pathogens and other organisms with such precision that they can distinguish between different strains of a bacterium and even slight variations by geography within the same strain. WGS has proven to be a powerful tool for food manufacturers and regulatory agencies. The technology can be used to determine which illnesses are part of an outbreak and which are not; to determine which ingredient in a multi-ingredient food is responsible for an outbreak; to identify geographic regions from which a contaminated ingredient may have originated; to link illnesses to a processing facility; to link small numbers of illnesses that otherwise might not have been identified as common outbreak; and to identify unlikely routes of contamination. While rapid analysis of WGS data still remains somewhat of a challenge, and may in some situations represent a bottleneck, easy-to-use, high-throughput bioinformatics tools for bacterial WGS data have been developed and are rapidly being improved. The cost of gene sequencing equipment is also continuously declining. With its advantages and decreasing costs, WGS has been integrated into routine foodborne disease surveillance and may replace other technologies such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) in the near future

This symposium was organized by the IFT Quality Assurance Division in collaboration with the IFT Food Microbiology Division.
Fresh and fresh-cut produce has been linked to outbreaks resulting from bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens infection in the last 20 years. Since 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) authorized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue regulations for fresh produce processors that would require establishment of preventive controls for potential food safety hazards in their products. In addition, United Fresh Produce Association just published a guideline for fresh-cut produce processors to involve three options to prevent cross-contamination during produce washing process including: (1) apply a pathogen surrogate for the microbial hazard and verify that cross-contamination is prevented by the antimicrobial wash; (2) use of antimicrobial sensors and the demonstration that a critical antimicrobial level is maintained during worst-case scenario; and (3) validate the placement of the sensors in the processing equipment. The dynamics of processing conditions applied by various produce growers are more complex than laboratory conditions. Meanwhile, the new FSMA gives small farms and direct-market farms who sell produce locally the option of complying with state regulations; provide the US-FDA with the authority to exempt farms engaged in low or minimal risk processing from new regulatory requirements; reduce unnecessary paperwork and excess regulations required under the preventative control plan; and exempt farmers from extensive traceability and recordkeeping requirements. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that both industry scale and locally grown fresh produce producers/growers are equipped with scientific pilot plant validated information, which are closer to real-life scenarios. Besides, the most recent USDA-NIFA RFA specifically identifies the development of economic incentives that lead to improved food safety including fresh produce safety as one of its key priorities. The agricultural economic cost-effectiveness analysis will provide direct and early identification of major economic factors that impact the adoption of the pathogen control strategies during fresh produce processing. This session will begin with an overview of key factors affecting bacteria survival and transfer during tomato and leafy green post-harvest washing processing in pilot plants. Following that, an industry scale in-plant validation study of antimicrobial application in various fresh produce processes and the application of pathogen surrogate will be discussed. In addition, a “three-step” washing process to control foodborne pathogens on fresh produce and storage bins in West Virginia local community will be presented. Finally, an analysis of economic feasibility of control strategies to improve microbial safety for fresh produce will conclude the session. The invited speakers include a food technologist, food microbiologist, food industry consultant, and agricultural economist, and represent expertise from the food industry, government research institutions, and academia.
Clostridium botulinum neurotoxins continue to be a threat to the global food supply through natural and possibly intentional routes of contamination. Rapid, sensitive, and specific detection of the most potent neurotoxin known, botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), is of vital concern to prevent cases of the neuroparalytic disease (botulism). The mouse bioassay is considered the gold standard assay because it a positive result in the test requires all four steps of intoxication, internalization by the host through the small intestine, trafficking of the toxin to the target cell via the blood and lymphatic system, translocation into the target neuronal cell and finally, catalytic activity of the toxin's light chain on SNARE proteins to prevent the release of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction. Disadvantages to the mouse bioassay include the ethical concerns of using laboratory animals, the expensive cost, and the time to receive a positive result, which can take up to 4 days for a positive. Functional based assays (e. g. endopeptidase mass spectrometry, cell based and Förster resonance energy transfer) are specific and rely on the biological activity of the botulinum neurotoxin. Immunological and other in vitro assays, such as enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (e. g. DIG-ELISA) cannot discern between active and inactive toxins. This symposium will discuss the current assays used to detect botulinum neurotoxins in food and clinical samples, address their advantages and disadvantages, and highlight the most rapid, sensitive, and specific assays that are being widely adopted to replace existing toxin detection and/or screening methods.
The CDC estimates that every year, there are 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to consumption of foods contaminated with pathogens. Therefore, it is necessary to process foods to effectively inactivate these microorganisms to render food safe. Various preservation technologies have been developed and adopted successfully to eliminate or reduce microbial contamination of the food. However, conventional treatments are very highly energy intensive with high capital and operational costs. Most often these processes also result in deterioration of food quality. Therefore, there is a need for alternative processing methods that are simple, cost-effective, have high inactivation efficiencies and yield minimal quality changes. Emerging technologies such as UV light, pulsed light and LED light processing show great promise since they can inactivate the pathogenic microorganisms while preserving the quality of foods.

This session will focus on recent advances in the light-based technologies for microbial decontamination. There has been an increased interest in the applications of light-based technologies such as UV light, pulsed light and LED light for inactivating microorganisms. Typically, these technologies operate in the UV, visible and near-infrared light range. Studies have shown that these technologies can effectively inactivate myriad microorganisms. However, there are several challenges associated with these technologies. The identified speakers are experts in the light-based technologies. They will shed light on the applications and challenges of these technologies. Due to the increased interest in these technologies, a symposium on this topic is highly warranted.

This session is sponsored by Phi Tau Sigma, the honor society of food science and technology.
Low-energy electron beam (LEEB) technology is a promising non-thermal food processing technology for microbial decontamination. This technology treats the target material with low energy electrons (≤300 keV), which provides an efficient surface decontamination with reduced energy consumption. Compared to other decontamination technologies, LEEB has several advantages. First, the technology is easy to operate, as it does not involve any chemicals, produce no wastewater, and does not contain radioactive material. Second, it is controllable and flexible as the lamps that provides the electrons can be turned off. Third, it is easy to be implemented in the existing processing line as it does not need heavy shielding due to the low penetration depth. Fourth, since the low-energy electrons interaction stays only on surface, the internal part of the target material remains unaltered. Therefore, the technology has minimal or no impact on quality. Moreover, due to its low energy input, LEEB produces more secondary electrons compared to high-energy electron beam and these secondary electrons can shadowlessly treat complex surfaces with high inactivation efficiency. In 2012, LEEB was introduced into the food industry as a sterilization method for packaging material. Nowadays, scientists and industry are actively looking for wider application fields of LEEB for decontamination of dry foods such as spices, seeds, etc.

In this session, two main aspects of LEEB will be discussed. First, the general knowledge and current development, such as how it works, how efficient the decontamination is, the influencing factors of its effectiveness, etc. Second, the advantages of LEEB compared to other microbial decontamination methods, and the possible implementation and application, including both the technical and legislative aspects.
In recent years, whole genome sequencing has emerged as a powerful food safety tool. The unprecedented resolution of whole genome sequencing allows for highly improved characterization and subtyping of microorganisms over methods such as pulsed field gel electrophoresis. This in turn has helped to improve epidemiological investigations of foodborne illnesses by more quickly and accurately linking clinical isolate whole genome sequence subtypes with those of food and environmental isolates. By providing this faster and more accurate link, foodborne illness outbreaks can be resolved in much more timely manner, which therefore helps reduce the number of foodborne illness cases. Consequently, whole genome sequencing has been adopted as a key tool in the repertoire of regulatory and public health agencies such as the FDA, USDA, and CDC for resolution of foodborne illness outbreak investigations and other applications such as monitoring of antimicrobial resistance.

Yet, although these agencies have begun to use whole genome sequencing in these ways, there is still a need for policy development surrounding the technology. As a result, the use of whole genome sequencing in the food industry has been limited. There are many different applications of the technology that would greatly improve food safety management from different areas of the food industry. For instance, whole genome sequencing can be used to identify possible harborage of a bacterium in a food processing facility. It can also be used to tie together isolates that were involved in a beef slaughter "event day." Other uses of next generation sequencing technology that are not directly applied to whole genome sequencing, such as 16S metagenomics, are also important for investigating sources of spoilage and determining the types of microorganisms present at different stages of the process. Yet, due to uncertainty around the regulatory perspective of the use of the technology, the food industry has been reluctant to widely adopt it as a tool in their food safety management systems.

This symposium will discuss an overview of the current technology that is available for performing whole genome sequencing and the current uses of whole genome sequencing by third party laboratories. This will then be followed up by presentations from the meat and produce industries where the use of whole genome sequencing by the members of these industries will be discussed, along with the concerns that still remain for these industries from a regulatory standpoint. Lastly, the session will be rounded out by a presentation on the legal and regulatory concerns on the use of whole genome sequencing, including information on the current landscape of policy development with regard to the technology.
As WGS becomes more prevalent in surveillance and regulatory compliance operations, and foodborne illness attribution, there are, however, several areas of continued debate surrounding the use of WGS-based tools. These include but are not limited to standardizing methodologies to determine similarity; appropriateness of retrospective linking of illnesses, establishing insanitary manufacturing conditions; and continued need for reliance on epidemiological and consumption evidence. The session will include a panel of speakers representing academia, government, and industry who will share their technical and regulatory perspectives, and the real-world opportunities and challenges related to the growth of WGS in food safety applications.

This panel will discuss the application of a highly advanced and promising tool in our food production system and consider science and risk-based regulatory approaches and policies to drive public health objectives.