The Microbiological Safety of Low Water Activity Foods and Spices

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Low water activity (aw) and dried foods such as dried dairy and meat products, grain-based and dried ready-to-eat cereal products, powdered infant formula, peanut and nut pastes, as well as flours and meals have increasingly been associated with product recalls and foodborne outbreaks due to contamination by pathogens such as Salmonella spp. and enterohemorrhagic E. coli. In particular, recent foodborne outbreaks and product recalls related to Salmonella-contaminated spices have raised the level of public health concern for spices as agents of foodborne illnesses. Presently, most spices are grown outside the U.S., mainly in 8 countries: India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, Peru, Madagascar, Mexico and Vietnam. Many of these countries are under-developed and spices are harvested and stored with little heed to sanitation. The FDA has regulatory oversight of spices in the United States; however, the agency’s control is largely limited to enforcing regulatory compliance through sampling and testing only after imported foodstuffs have crossed the U.S. border. Unfortunately, statistical sampling plans are inefficient tools for ensuring total food safety. As a result, the development and use of decontamination treatments is key.

This book provides an understanding of the microbial challenges to the safety of low aw foods, and a historic backdrop to the paradigm shift now highlighting low aw foods as vehicles for foodborne pathogens. Up-to-date facts and figures of foodborne illness outbreaks and product recalls are included. Special attention is given to the uncanny ability of Salmonella to persist under dry conditions in food processing plants and foods. A section is dedicated specifically to processing plant investigations, providing practical approaches to determining sources of persistent bacterial strains in the industrial food processing environment. Readers are guided through dry cleaning, wet cleaning and alternatives to processing plant hygiene and sanitation. Separate chapters are devoted to low aw food commodities of interest including spices, dried dairy-based products, low aw meat products, dried ready-to-eat cereal products, powdered infant formula, nuts and nut pastes, flours and meals, chocolate and confectionary, dried teas and herbs, and pet foods. The book provides regulatory testing guidelines and recommendations as well as guidance through methodological and sampling challenges to testing spices and low aw foods for the presence of foodborne pathogens. Chapters also address decontamination processes for low aw foods, including heat, steam, irradiation, microwave, and alternative energy-based treatments.

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About the author

Joshua B. Gurtler, USDA Research Scientist, Phoenixville, PA

Michael P. Doyle, Regents Professor of Food Microbiology, Director, Center for Food Safety, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Griffin, GA

Jeffrey L. Kornacki, President and Senior Technical Director, Kornacki Microbiology Solutions, Inc., Madison, WI

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Additional Information

Publisher
Springer
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Published on
Dec 8, 2014
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Pages
444
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ISBN
9781493920624
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Biotechnology
Science / Chemistry / General
Science / Life Sciences / Microbiology
Technology & Engineering / Chemical & Biochemical
Technology & Engineering / Food Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Foodborne illnesses continue to be a major public health concern. All members of a particular bacterial genera (e.g., Salmonella, Campylobacter) or species (e.g., Listeria monocytogenes, Cronobacter sakazakii) are often treated by public health and regulatory agencies as being equally pathogenic; however, this is not necessarily true and is an overly conservative approach to ensuring the safety of foods. Even within species, virulence factors vary to the point that some isolates may be highly virulent, whereas others may rarely, if ever, cause disease in humans. Hence, many food safety scientists have concluded that a more appropriate characterization of bacterial isolates for public health purposes could be by virotyping, i.e., typing food-associated bacteria on the basis of their virulence factors. The book is divided into two sections. Section I, “Foodborne Pathogens and Virulence Factors,” hones in on specific virulence factors of foodborne pathogens and the role they play in regulatory requirements, recalls, and foodborne illness. The oft-held paradigm that all pathogenic strains are equally virulent is untrue. Thus, we will examine variability in virulence between strains such as Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Cronobacter, etc. This section also examines known factors capable of inducing greater virulence in foodborne pathogens. Section II, “Foodborne Pathogens, Host Susceptibility, and Infectious Dose” , covers the ability of a pathogen to invade a human host based on numerous extraneous factors relative to the host and the environment. Some of these factors include host age, immune status, genetic makeup, infectious dose, food composition and probiotics. Readers of this book will come away with a better understanding of foodborne bacterial pathogen virulence factors and pathogenicity, and host factors that predict the severity of disease in humans.
Principles of Microbiological Troubleshooting in the Industrial Food Processing Environment provides proven approaches and suggestions for finding sources of microbiological contamination of industrially produced products.

Industrial food safety professionals find themselves responsible for locating and eliminating the source(s) of food contamination. These are often complex situations for which they have not been adequately prepared. This book is written with them, the in-plant food safety/quality assurance professional, in mind. However, other professionals will also benefit including plant managers, regulatory field investigators, technical food safety policy makers, college instructors, and students of food science and microbiology.

A survey of the personal and societal costs of microbial contamination of food is followed by a wide range of respected authors who describe selected bacterial pathogens, emerging pathogens, spoilage organisms and their significance to the industry and consumer. Dr. Kornacki then provides real life examples of in-plant risk areas / practices (depicted with photographs taken from a wide variety of food processing facilities). Factors influencing microbial growth, survival and death area also described. The reader will find herein a practical framework for troubleshooting and for assessing the potential for product contamination in their own facilities, as well as suggestions for conducting their own in-plant investigations. Selected tools for testing the environment and statistical approaches to testing ingredients and finished product are also described. The book provides suggestions for starting up after a processing line (or lines) have been shut down due to a contamination risk. The authors conclude with an overview of molecular subtyping and its value with regard to in-plant investigations.

Numerous nationally recognized authors in the field have contributed to the book. The editor, Dr. Jeffery L. Kornacki, is President and Senior Technical Director of the consulting firm, Kornacki Microbiology Solutions in Madison, Wisconsin. He is also Adjunct Faculty with the Department of Food Science at the University of Georgia and also with the National Food Safety & Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.

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