The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
Summer/Fall 1996
Vol. 6 No. 3

Articles in this issue:


New HACCP Rules Mean Changes for Industry

It was years in the making but the federal government unveiled the long-awaited reform of the nation's meat and poultry inspection system during the Independence Day holiday weekend. President Clinton made the formal announcement accompanied by briefings from Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and other USDA officials.

"We had to improve the safety of American meat and poultry," Glickman said. "The current system had not been fundamentally changed for 90 years, and it had a critical gap: It did not focus on the most serious public health problem of pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, which cause thousands of deaths and§s of illnesses every year."

The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system (HACCP) will be implemented in all slaughter and processing plants over a period ranging from 18 to 42 months following publication of the rule in the Federal Register in July 1996, depending upon the size of a plant. HACCP is a system in which each plant is required to identify points in its processing system where a chemical, physical or microbiological hazard can occur. Each plant's plan must also establish controls to prevent or reduce the hazards and maintain records that show the controls are working. Inspectors from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection service will continually verify each plant's plan and its effectiveness.

The implementation of HACCP systems will be effective according to this schedule, FSIS said:

* 18 months after publication of the rule for plants with more than 500 employees;
* 30 months for plants with 10 to 500 employees;
* 42 months for plants with no more than nine employees or annual sales of less than $2.5 million.

HACCP systems vary according to the specific processes within a plant. Although the systems can be implemented over the coming months, many industries have already begun doing so. Much of the research performed by investigators with the Food Safety Consortium has been oriented toward development of specific HACCP systems or ways of improving certain aspects of particular systems to facilitate the reduction or elimination of contaminants.

The implementation of HACCP systems replaces the 90-year-old method of relying on USDA inspectors stationed inside plants who depended on sight and smell to examine processed meats and poultry for possible contamination. The new system is aimed at detecting and eliminating such problems through scientific methods long before meat and poultry nears the end of the processing line. The new regulations place the burden of responsibility on industry for manufacturing products that are not adulterated and that meet performance standards.

Plants will have what FSIS calls "clear, affirmative responsibilities for preventing food safety hazards." FSIS inspection personnel in plants will be responsible for conducting tests for Salmonella..

The FSIS inspectors will also be responsible for determining that plants' sanitation standard operating procedures and HACCP plan conform with regulations; determining that each plant is carrying out those plans and verifying microbial organisms; preparing written material to document any failure to meet regulations, and taking appropriate action when a plant is not in conformance with regulations.

Slaughter plants will also be required to conduct microbial testing for the generic E. coli bacterium, a species that is found in the intestinal tract of food animals and that serves as an indicator of fecal contamination. Plants will be required to begin the testing six months after the publication of the new USDA rule. Twelve months after publication of the rules, FSIS inspectors will begin reviewing each plant's E. coli test results. The sampling frequency will be determined by the plant's production volume, ranging from once a week in the smallest plants to several tests a day in the largest.

The new rules also require testing by FSIS for pathogenic Salmonella on raw meat and poultry. FSIS said it selected Salmonella because it is the most common cause of foodborne illness associated with meat and poultry. FSIS will have a performance standard for reduction of Salmonella which the plants will be required to achieve consistently. Methods that the plants use to reduce Salmonella are also expected to prevent and remove other pathogenic bacteria. The plants will be requiredto meet the FSIS Salmonella standards on the same implementation timetable they must meet in implementing the HACCP system, depending on their size.

If tests indicate that a plant is not meeting the standards, FSIS could conduct follow-up tests. FSIS said its responses "will increase in severity" if a plant fails to meet the standards on successive tests. The responses could include requiring a plant to take whatever action may be necessary to meet the standards. FSIS could also suspend the inspections pending a satisfactory reassessment of the plant's HACCP system or demand the plant cease operations.

FSIS announced a series of activities scheduled to begin after publication of the rules. They include national and regional conferences on implementation of HACCP; a joint conference with the Food and Drug Administration on establishing temperature controls for meat, poultry and other perishable foods outside processing plants; HACCP demonstrations for small plants; a conference on testing for generic E. coli; a conference to review Salmonella data; a public meeting to discuss plans for testing new models for deploying FSIS inspection resources; meetings with state agriculture officials, and a meeting with representatives of foreign governments that import U.S. meat and poultry.

The new rules have been endorsed by a wide range of organizations, according to a survey compiled by the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. The American Meat Institute, which had earlier called for mandatory HACCP systems in all meat and poultry plants, said the new requirements would bring uniformity to a system that processors have already supported voluntarily. The National Broiler Council called the plan "a modern system of quality control that will focus on preventing or reducing potential health hazards associated with food." The National Turkey Federation said it was pleased that HACCP is the cornerstone of the new rules and noted that all its members would implement the system ahead of or consistent with USDA's timetable. The National Pork Producers Council said it supported the change and was committed to product safety. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association noted that beef cattle producers and companies "have invested millions of dollars to develop HACCP plans and new technologies, such as the high temperature steam vacuum system, to ensure beef and beef products continue to be safe and wholesome."

Consumer groups also applauded the move. The rules "will give consumers reason for increased faith in their meat and poultry," Mark Epstein of Public Voice for Food and Health Policy told The Washington Post. "We understand the government doesn't necessarily have to be in every nook and cranny of an industry. We're happy to have the industry analyze how best to prevent meat contamination."

HACCP Has Origins in the Early 1980s


The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point systems that will be required of the meat and poultry industry in coming months have a history going back to the early 1980s. An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in early 1993 in the Pacific Northwest spurred the Clinton administration to begin the immediate action that resulted in announcement of the new rules in July, but the wheels that put HACCP in place began turning much earlier.

Richard Forsythe, the retired coordinator of the Food Safety Consortium and a distinguished professor emeritus of poultry science at the University of Arkansas, recalled that the review started in 1983 when the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service asked the National Research Council's Food and Nutrition Board to evaluate the scientific basis of the meat and poultry inspection system. The board's report in 1985 recommended that FSIS intensify its efforts to control and eliminate contamination by disease-causing microorganisms.

Speaking to the Poultry Science Association annual meeting that met in July in Louisville, Ky., Forsythe noted that the board also recommended that a way be found for FSIS "to coordinate the control and monitoring of hazardous agents during production, where those agents enter the food supply."

FSIS later asked the National Research Council to conduct a follow-up study specifically for poultry, Forsythe said. The council's report concluded that "FSIS should consider using risk assessment techniques to manage and control poultry-associated hazards."

In 1987, the HACCP approach was introduced to FSIS. The concept had been developed earlier by a team at the Pillsbury Co. as a way to assure the safety of food produced for the space program, Forsythe said. The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food then established the seven principles governing the HACCP approach to food safety: Conduct a hazard analysis, identify critical control points, establish critical control point limits, establish monitoring requirements, establish corrective actions, develop recordkeeping procedures and develop procedures for verifying that the system is working.

"While the HACCP system has been widely discussed, these principles have never changed," Forsythe said.

In late 1993, then-Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy commissioned the USDA Pathogen Reduction Task Force to lead, coordinate and oversee the department's programs to ensure safe meat and poultry. In February 1995, FSIS published the proposed new HACCP rule, beginning almost a year and a half of review, discussions and debate in government and industry.

"Time and space do not permit a review of the thousands of pages of comments from every trade association, from many consumer advocate groups, the inspectors' union (National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals), the media and academic science professionals," Forsythe said. "To believe that partisan politics did not play an important role in these discussions would be naive."

The food industry in the past decade has moved from a concept of quality control - in which inspectors look for defects and reject those that fail to meet standards - to quality assurance, which embraces the principles of HACCP by seeking to manufacture products without defects, Forsythe said.

"This is the religion of Dr. Edward Deming, who turned manufacturing systems around, first in Japan and then in the United States," Forsythe said. "The same principles that assure quality, assure safety. Safety, like quality, must be manufactured in. It cannot be inspected in."

As scientific knowledge increases and proposed food safety regulations evolve, scientists will find themselves facing the need to compromise on some issues, Forsythe warned.

"We must go into the compromise negotiation with all of the sound facts we can," he said. "Then we must understand as much as we can about our opponents' position and know as much as possible about their sometimes 'hidden' agenda. HACCP, risk assessment, the 'mega-reg,' and pathogen reduction have been filled with compromise. And, as finally issued, this regulation is still a compromise. ... Risk scientists and risk managers are often coming from a different background. As risk scientists we must learn that risk trade-offs can be accepted."

Forsythe noted that a recent FSIS baseline survey examined 1,297 broiler carcasses from federally inspected plants and analyzed them for bacterial levels. The bacterial counts were very low, he said, but the results showed that Campylobacter jejuni/coli was found on 88 percent of the carcasses, Staphylococcus aureus on 64 percent, Clostridium perfringens on 43 percent, Salmonella on 20 percent, and Listeria monocytogenes on 15 percent. No E. coli 0157:H7 was found. But the figures do not address the health of the population or the cost of food borne illness, Forsythe said.

The food safety community must review the effects of its research, regulations, quality assurance programs and educational activities on the nation's health and the reduction of foodborne illness, Forsythe said. Much foodborne illness "is due to mishandling during preparation and consumption," a situation that he said showed the necessity for more emphasis on training of food handlers and education of consumers.

Following the 1993 outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 at Jack in the Box restaurants in the Pacific Northwest, the company formed a partnership with the National Restaurant Association to train management personnel in a food safety program. Forsythe said Jack in the Box then became the first large restaurant operator to have all its managers certified in the training program and that many other franchise operations have begun similar programs. The USDA has also developed training aids and the Food and Drug Administration has published a revised food code detailing proper food handling procedures. Land grant colleges, with their experience in food safety research and a network of home economists and extension specialists, form a large and highly qualified group to train food service workers and consumers in good food handling practices, he said.

"All involved in food production - both plant and animal, food processors, food distributors, retailers and institution managers, food service operators and consumers - must put education at a very high priority," Forsythe said.


KSU Aids Dry Sausage Manufacturer


Meeting food safety standards carries a price tag for food processing companies that must follow U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. Researchers with the Food Safety Consortium at Kansas State University are developing ways to maintain product quality, keep the costs down and still assure that standards are met.

The project concerns dry sausage, which as a ready-to-eat food poses challenges different than those faced by processors of raw meat and poultry products. Proper cooking of the raw products at home is the last line of defense against contamination, but dry sausage isn't cooked at home so the final chance to produce a clean product is back at the plant. Adequate fermentation and drying procedures are necessary to make it safe from pathogenic bacteria including E. coli 0157:H7.

Last year in California, an outbreak of E. coli 0157:H7 in sausage got the attention of industry and the USDA. They found that the quantity of the bacteria in the sausage that made it infectious was lower than what they had believed to be the minimum threshold.

"The number of pathogens in that salami was exceedingly low, about one per ounce," explained James Marsden, a Consortium principal investigator at KSU. "If you're talking about Salmonella you're talking about thousands of cells required to cause illness. Here you've got one organism in one ounce of product and you've got an outbreak."

So the USDA responded by requiring that all manufacturers of those products and companies that import them must verify that their processing procedures can completely eliminate the pathogen. The processors must do this through a validation study that demonstrates if their methods can meet a particular USDA standard.

The test calls for sample sausages to be inoculated with a high level of E. coli 0157:H7 - 10 million units, or 107 units. Then the manufacturers must show that their fermentation process will reduce the pathogen down to 100 units, or 102. Going from 107 to 102 units is called a 5-log reduction in scientific parlance.

"Five logs is the same basic reduction you get when you cook ground beef, for example, so it's quite a significant reduction," Marsden said. "There's been some attempt at achieving that 5 log reduction through fermentation and drying. It can be done but generally it requires some elevated temperature so you're relying on lethal heat."

But that much heat can cause problems for sausage makers. "Each company has such a specific process developed and if you alter it a little bit by adding heat, then you've greatly changed the characteristics of their product and they don't want that," said Randy Phebus, a Consortium principal investigator at KSU. "They have an identity built into their product and you can't change that. That goes totally against all their marketing and their consumer loyalty."

So sausage manufacturers are left wondering how they will meet the USDA requirement to reduce the pathogenic bacteria by 5 logs. The Consortium's team at KSU is experimenting with ways to do this without relying so much on heat. "We're looking at things like ingredient technologies, smoke extracts, very gradual increases in temperatures in those products so that you have low temperatures for perhaps longer periods of time," Marsden said. "If we're successful that means that San Francisco-style dry sausage and Italian Genoa salami can continue to be made using the same basic process that we use currently."

The KSU researchers have begun their work on equipment recently installed in a campus building that Marsden described as "literally a miniature version of the dry sausage factory." Some of the equipment was custom made in Italy for the KSU lab to reproduce the processing conditions that exist in industry.

"We are now in the position to put into place almost any kind of commercial process and do it under commercial conditions," Phebus said. The campus has fermentation and drying chambers in which investigators are attempting to validate the pathogen-reduction process for sausage. "Now with the individual companies we're really in the mode of saying, 'Yes, your process will do this' or 'No, your process won't.' It's not so much a matter of us redeveloping their process for them."

But what the KSU researchers learn from their validation experiments will still be useful to the manufacturers. Phebus explained that the Consortium investigators will conduct research on different types of sausage products and come up with suggestions on how to kill the 5 logs of pathogenic bacteria.

Companies that use KSU's researchers and facilities to conduct the validation tests will save money. "There are hundreds of these companies throughout the United States," Marsden said. "A lot of these are small mom-and-pop type companies. Doing these validation studies is an expensive proposition."

Marsden hopes that the tests at KSU will define what processing steps are necessary to achieve the 5-log bacteria kill and that those procedures will be adopted as industry standards. Then individual companies will not have to continually validate their own processes on a costly case-by-case basis. "If, for example, you can show that cooking something up to 155 degrees controls a certain pathogen and everybody cooks to 155, then not every single plant has to go out and scrutinize it," he said.

The requirement that processes for reducing pathogens be validated is the only order that USDA has sent to the sausage industry since the California outbreak. Information gathered from the tests at KSU will help USDA decide what, if any, additional regulations would be necessary. Marsden believes the cooperation among the Consortium, industry and USDA showed that merely cooking the sausage at high temperatures wasn't the best way to address the sausage problem. He hopes the parties can resolve the situation, perhaps without more regulations.

"I'm hopeful this can be addressed through industry good manufacturing practices," Marsden said. "That's the way other issues in the past have been addressed. Industry has led the way. It's been an industry-driven process. So far, USDA has kept the brakes on and has acted responsibly."

Researchers Seek to Narrow Links
Between Salmonella and Children


When Salmonella bacteria cause infections, contaminated food is commonly suspected by many people to be the source. But research shows that contaminated food is less likely to be the cause among infants and children under 4 years old, who account for about one-third of the infections nationwide.

A Food Safety Consortium research project at Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas Ïcal Sciences, both in Little Rock, has found that the direct role of contaminated foods remains questionable in these cases, but nailing down the precise causes remains difficult.

"The conclusion I've come to so far is that food doesn't play a direct role in that it's not contaminated food that contaminates the children," said Dr. Gordon Schutze, a Consortium researcher who heads the Salmonella research project. Schutze is an associate professor of pediatrics and pathology at Children's Hospital and UAMS.

"It's environment or the caretaker of the child who is sick - either symptomatically or asymptomatically - that then infects their own child," Schutze said. "The real chicken-and-the-egg question is where did the caretaker get it. ... As far as the children go it's probably not a direct contamination of their food but it's from the caretaker or the environment that they get it from."

The findings help narrow the focus on the causes of Salmonella infections and sends some important warnings to parents of small children and clinicians. Schutze's report says they need to understand that future technology designed to increase the safety of foods will probably not have direct impact on the incidence of salmonellosis, the infection of the gastrointestinal system caused by the Salmonella bacterium, in infants and children. Children's environments can be contaminated in many ways but the most significant source would appear to be contact with caretakers who have already been infected.

When Salmonella bacteria cause infections, contaminated food is commonly suspected by many people to be the source. But research shows that contaminated food is less likely to be the cause among infants and children under 4 years old, who account for about one-third of the infections nationwide.

A Food Safety Consortium research project at Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, both in Little Rock, has found that the direct role of contaminated foods remains questionable in these cases, but nailing down the precise causes remains difficult.

"The conclusion I've come to so far is that food doesn't play a direct role in that it's not contaminated food that contaminates the children," said Dr. Gordon Schutze, a Consortium researcher who heads the Salmonella research project. Schutze is an associate professor of pediatrics and pathology at Children's Hospital and UAMS.

"It's environment or the caretaker of the child who is sick - either symptomatically or asymptomatically - that then infects their own child," Schutze said. "The real chicken-and-the-egg question is where did the caretaker get it. ... As far as the children go it's probably not a direct contamination of their food but it's from the caretaker or the environment that they get it from."

The findings help narrow the focus on the causes of Salmonella infections and sends some important warnings to parents of small children and clinicians. Schutze's report says they need to understand that future technology designed to increase the safety of foods will probably not have direct impact on the incidence of salmonellosis, the infection of the gastrointestinal system caused by the Salmonella bacterium, in infants and children. Children's environments can be contaminated in many ways but the most significant source would appear to be contact with caretakers who have already been infected.

The study of this problem has two parts. The first was an analysis of responses compiled from 1993 to 1995 from the families of 90 children from whom Children's Hospital lab personnel had isolated Salmonella from body tissue and 264 age-matched children who had not contracted the infection. Families were asked about food preparation and consumption, parental occupations and various risk factors. The results showed that no common source for Salmonella could be identified and suggested that environmental contamination from a common unidentified source was an important factor in children's contraction of the infection.

To narrow down the source, the researchers began a second study in the fall of 1995 that is still under way. Schutze said the researchers plan to examine 50 homes of infected children by next year before finishing.

Results have been analyzed from the first 18 homes surveyed. The researchers obtained 180 cultures from household members, refrigerators, can openers, water, counter tops, vacuum cleaners, sinks, faucets, animals, soil, milk, cutting boards, infant formula, tables and floors. Salmonella was found in four of the households. In each case, the Salmonella serotype recovered in a household was identical to the samples isolated from the child who had been infected. Contact with infected caretakers or environmental sources appeared to be the major route by which the children were contaminated.

So the question in Schutze's view remains where the caretaker got the infection. None of the usual factors with which Salmonella is often associated turned out to be important. "It wasn't related to day-care attendance. It wasn't related to the monetary status of the family. It wasn't related to the number of people who live in the house."

Those factors mentioned by Schutze are usually cited as causes when epidemics of Salmonella break out. But he noted that the research shows they do not play a major role in sporadic cases of the infection, such as the Children's Hospital research cases.

In one home, researchers could trace an infection back to cattle. A man bought 20 head of cattle, 14 of which died from bloody diarrhea, Schutze said. Then several family members, including two children, became sick. The Salmonella isolates in the children matched those from a dead calf and a dying calf.

"It means to me the calves brought it in, contaminated the grandfather, who then contaminated the whole family," Schutze said.

But in many cases the infection is more difficult to trace back to the origins. Research currently under way is designed to pin down the origins of the Salmonella bacteria more specifically so health officials can make more precise determinations of the causes of sporadic outbreaks. The project is up against some natural obstacles.

"There are over 2,000 serotypes of Salmonella," Schutze said. Two people, for example, may both be infected with the serotype Salmonella newport, but breaking it down to that level does not necessarily mean the two people have exactly the same Salmonella.

"On the outside it's going to look the same. Most non-research labs have no way of going further than that to see if it's the same. So with the help of Don Cave (an anatomy professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) and Rossina Stefanova (an anatomy research assistant at UAMS), we've been able to do that and take it a step farther down to the genetic level," Schutze said.

The researchers hope to close in and narrow down the source of these infections to assist in controlling them on the front end. But there is no magic bullet to eliminate the bacteria and the public must do its part to aid in control.

"Until we as a society get a better handle on the different environmental contaminations from this organism, it's just going to be there," Schutze said. "People need to realize that this germ is on food and in the environment and on your pets and on your floor. You need to wash your hands."
but breaking it down to that level does not necessarily mean the two people have exactly the same Salmonella.

"On the outside it's going to look the same. Most non-research labs have no way of going further than that to see if it's the same. So with the help of Don Cave (an anatomy professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) and Rossina Stefanova (an anatomy research assistant at UAMS), we've been able to do that and take it a step farther down to the genetic level," Schutze said.

The researchers hope to close in and narrow down the source of these infections to assist in controlling them on the front end. But there is no magic bullet to eliminate the bacteria and the public must do its part to aid in control.

"Until we as a society get a better handle on the different environmental contaminations from this organism, it's just going to be there," Schutze said. "People need to realize that this germ is on food and in the environment and on your pets and on your floor. You need to wash your hands."

ISU Examines Irradiation's Effect on Shelf Life


Irradiation can be used as one way of killing pathogenic bacteria in meat products, and one of its side effects is the extension of a product's shelf life. Researchers with the Food Safety Consortium at Iowa State University have been looking into those effects on irradiated pork. In some cases they have found that the shelf life of the product doubles.

The doses of irradiation can have a compounding effect on the life of the product as the bacteria are killed. Jim Dickson, a Consortium principal investigator at ISU, explained that the scenario revolves around what is called the product's "lag phase" of the spoilage bacteria in the product.

The lag phase is the length of time that organisms take to adjust to their environment and start growing on a meat product. With ground pork as consumers see it packaged at retail stores, the lag phase of the spoilage bacteria is about a day. The generation time is the length of time it takes for the organisms to double in population, which for ground pork is about 12 hours.

"When you irradiate the product you extend the lag phase from roughly one day to three days," Dickson said. "And the generation time of the surviving population goes from half a day to a little over one day."

Higher doses of irradiation bring even better results as the lag phase time extends proportionally with the increase in dosage. Doubling the irradiation amount doubles the lag phase and the generation time, and so on.

"We were seeing shelf lives with the standard nonirradiated product on the order of about 12 days," Dickson said. "With the irradiated product, at a dose of half a kiloGray and above, we were seeing shelf lives going from 12 days to 24 days to 30 days."

The amount of irradiation absorbed in dosages in measured in kiloGrays. The World Health Organization considers any food irradiated up to an average dose of 10 kiloGrays to be wholesome and safe for consumption.

When the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture approve the irradiation of ground pork, it will be irradiated at low doses, Dickson said. "At 2 kiloGrays you will effectively eliminate Salmonella, E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter, Yersinia - basically any pathogen you want to name - at the levels you would normally encounter in a product."

Irradiation of ground beef and pork must be approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and then the U.S. Department of Agriculture must issue regulations governing application of the process. Then there is the matter of how willing industry is to adopt the process on a large scale.

"I think the industry is interested in it," Dickson said. "What I would expect to see is after approval (by the FDA) is that we'll see some test marketing of irradiated products by the larger companies."

Food Safety Consortium Presents Program at USAHA


The Food Safety Consortium was the sponsor of a workshop on salmonellosis research during the national convention of the United States Animal Health Association. The workshop, held Oct. 17 at the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock, Ark., comprised that entire day's proceedings for the USAHA meeting.

The program was coordinated by Dr. George Beran of Iowa State University, a distinguished professor of microbiology, immunology and preventive medicine and a member of the Consortium's Technical Executive Committee. "The amount of work has been very large and data in the three major species of focus in the Consortium - poultry, swine and cattle - are very important to share," Beran said.

Leon H. Russell, president-elect of the American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians, was the moderator. Several Consortium researchers were scheduled to present reports and participate in panel discussions on studies related to foodborne salmonellosis. The researchers and their topics of discussion were:

* Frederick Angulo, Centers for Disease Control: salmonellosis and the human health risk.
* Gordon Schutze, Arkansas Children's Hospital: Salmonellosis in children less than 4 years of age.
* Paula Fedorka-Cray, National Animal Disease Center: Salmonella infections in herds of swine.
* John Galland, Kansas State University: Salmonella infections in feedlot cattle.
* C. Lynn Knipe, Iowa State University: Salmonella contamination on swine carcasses and pork.
* Richard Orberst, Kansas State University: Salmonella and other pathogen detection by PCR technology.
* Theodore Kramer, Iowa State University: Prevention of Salmonella infections.
* Curtis Kastner, Kansas State University: Sampling methods on carcasses and meats.
* Daniel Fung, Kansas State University: Rapid enrichment methods for Salmonella cultures and detection of pathogenic bacteria by modern technology.
* David Baum, Iowa State University: Serological diagnosis by ELISA testing.
* Amy Waldroup, University of Arkansas: Chemical/physical means to reduce microorganisms in poultry processing plants.
* Yanbin Li, University of Arkansas: Destruction of Salmonella on poultry by low-voltage electricity.
* James Dickson, Iowa State University: Intervention strategies in carcass decontamination.
* Randy Phebus, Kansas State University: Advanced technology for beef carcass contamination.
* Cesar Compadre, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences: Chemical methods for contamination reduction on meat.
* Sharon Luchsinger, Kansas State University: Irradiation studies on meat.
* James Steele, University of Texas-Houston: Irradiation for protection of meat - present and future.

The workshop was jointly sponsored by the Consortium, the American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians, the National Association of State Meat and Food Inspection Directors, the Food Safety Committee of the USAHA, and the Salmonella Committee of the USAHA.

Electrical Treatment Reduces Salmonella on Poultry

 



The results have been positive in the recent years that Yanbin Li, in collaboration with Michael Slavik, has been testing electrical pasteurization as a way of reducing Salmonella on chicken carcasses as they proceed through processing plants. Li expects at least another year of work will be necessary before researchers will be able to reduce the treatment time to fit the speed of plants' shackle lines.

The Food Safety Consortium project is under study at the University of Arkansas, where Li is an assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering and Slavik is a professor of poultry science. Chicken carcasses were inoculated with Salmonella and dipped into a tank of water with one of four chemicals including sodium chloride, sodium carbonate, sodium bisulfate and trisodium phosphate. Then low-voltage electricity was applied. Salmonella was reduced by various numbers using the four chemicals in conjunction with the electrical treatment. In each case, the amount of Salmonella that was reduced exceeded the reductions recorded when chemicals were used alone without electrical treatment.

The use of chemicals is necessary when applying electrical treatment. Li explained that the birds themselves don't have enough conductivity for low-voltage electricity, so the chemicals must be included to act as conductors. The water itself provides only low conductivity

Electrical treatment can reduce Salmonella by up to 1.5 logs, Li said. Logs represent a relative measurement. For example, if a carcass contains 10,000 bacteria, that is 104 or 4 logs of bacteria. If the number is reduced to 1,000 bacteria, that is 103 or 3 logs of bacteria. So there is a 1-log reduction.

"The final goal we want to see is at least a 2- to 3-log reduction on chicken carcasses with an acceptable treatment time," Li said. "Then the industry will buy the technology."

Li's current efforts are directed at trying to set up the mechanics of a system that can accomplish those goals. His research is aimed at determining how much treatment time is necessary to achieve at least a 2-log reduction, what the ideal water temperature should be and how much electrical current to use.

"I'm an engineer and we have to design these things ourselves," Li said. "It can be quite time consuming. There's not a facility with this equipment available on the market. So we design and construct our own equipment."

Under the current system that Li has been improving, the treatment time is five minutes. That is too long for industry's needs, which keeps a shackle line moving at the rate of 60 to 90 birds passing by every minute. Li is still uncertain how much the treatment time can be reduced, but he believes 1 to 2 minutes will turn out to be the minimum time. To keep the line moving and still expose the birds to that much treatment time in the electrically-charged water, it would be necessary to build a 10-to-20-foot tunnel through which to move the birds for that amount of time.

Other options being investigated include increasing the water temperature as a way of reducing the treatment time. Li and his team are also examining whether there is a way to combine the methods of regulating water temperature with the use of bacteriocidal chemicals.

A combination method would allow using chemicals at a low concentration and accelerate the electrical treatment. The challenge would be to determine if that formula would reduce treatment time to 10 to 20 seconds. "That should be a practical time," Li said. "Industry would have no problem to accept the technology immediately."

Li and Slavik are also testing a chemical-spraying method for reducing bacteria on poultry carcasses during processing. An inside-outside bird washer was recently installed at the university pilot processing plant but it is still too soon to determine any conclusions about the technology.

A testing chamber was set up for spraying carcasses with tap water and chemicals: sodium chloride, trisodium phosphate, sodium bisulfate, cetylpyridinium chloride and lactic acids. Several combinations of chemicals, spraying times, setting times, temperatures and spraying pressures were used and Salmonella reduction was reported at various levels.

Chemical spraying may be more attractive to industry because the process takes only 10 to 20 seconds, Li said. But there are problems to be solved. Some bird washers cannot now handle certain chemicals because the chemical residue causes clogging. The larger spraying chambers that would be necessary to accommodate longer spraying times would require modification of existing plants unless they use space-saving bird washers that contain chemical sprayers.

"In one or two years we can probably work out something that will be close to the application point," Li said, so that a chemical spraying system will be available for industry that can accomplish a 2.5-log reduction in Salmonella at 10 seconds of spraying.

Report From the Coordinator

By Charles J. Scifres


The announcement of the new meat and poultry inspection standards by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the big news in food safety this year. The Food Safety Consortium has been charged with a major research role in the development of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points systems (HACCP) for several years. The Consortium will continue that role as industry strives to keep up with changing technologies that affect food safety.

HACCP is the centerpiece of the new standards. Each slaughter and processing plant must design and implement such standards to fit its own particular production system subject to approval by USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel. The chief aim of HACCP systems is to focus on key points within the food production process at which contamination might occur and to insert procedures that eliminate or drastically reduce that possibility. Much of the Consortium's research in the past several years has emphasized ways of achieving this goal.

Industry decided long ago that it wanted to be on the front end of developments related to HACCP. Many companies began instituting these procedures before the USDA mandates were announced. Several Food Safety Consortium research projects are intended to test and further develop these methods for industry's use and the consuming public's ultimate benefit. Here are just a few examples:

* Researchers at the University of Arkansas and Iowa State University worked with engineers at American Water Purification, Inc., and Cargill, Inc., Honeysuckle White to develop a system using ozone to recycle chill water used in turkey processing plants. The chill water lowers the turkeys' body temperature so potentially hazardous microorganisms have limited opportunities to grow.

* At Kansas State University, our researchers conducted several trials to test steam pasteurization as a way of removing bacterial contamination from beef carcasses. They found that the process, just recently approved by FSIS, is an effective decontaminant, especially when used with washing, trimming, and hot water/steam vacuum spot cleaning.

* Investigators at Iowa State University found the effects that various doses of irradiation have on bacterial pathogens on pork products and irradiation's effects on other characteristics of cooked pork chops and cured ham. Kansas State University scientists performed similar research analyzing irradiation's effects on characteristics of ground beef patties and steaks.

* The University of Arkansas is working on a robot that will cut chicken carcasses on the shackle line and make it possible to bypass evisceration and chiller baths, thus eliminating two potential sources for cross-contamination.

* Researchers at the National Animal Disease Center and Iowa State University are examining swine as carriers of foodborne pathogens and are evaluating management practices to reduce the pathogens.

* A recently patented process developed at Kansas State University stimulates the growth of pathogens, which speeds up their detection and the opportunity to destroy them.

Achievements such as these and many more by Food Safety Consortium researchers will enable food processors to implement quicker, more efficient and more reliable ways of battling pathogens that would otherwise threaten our foods. These results are incremental and not always obvious to the average observer. But they are important steps toward a safe food supply. The new USDA rules will help guarantee that, and this kind of research by the Food Safety Consortium will ensure that industry has much of the data and procedural knowledge to make the new rules work for us all.

Papers and Presentations


Amy Waldroup of Arkansas has been awarded a $10,000 grant from Los Alamos Technical Associates for research related to chemical disinfectants.

Waldroup has also been appointed chairman of the Food Safety Committee of the Poultry Science Association. In June, she prepared a generic HACCP model in June for the Broiler Slaughter Committee of the International HACCP Alliance meeting in Kansas City, Mo.

Waldroup also conducted a telephone interview with the Center for Science in the Public Interest concerning the incidence and levels of pathogens on raw poultry.

Mary Scantling, Mike Doyle, Alan Pace, Xing Dong and David Marsh, all of Arkansas, presented papers at the annual Poultry Science Association meeting July 8-12 in Louisville, Ky.

H.M. Stahr of Iowa State presented a paper on "The Problems of Aflatoxin and Fumonism Mycotoxins in Feed of Animals" in May at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose.

Stahr also co-authored an article on "An Improved Method for Analysis of Rumenism" published in the Journal of Diagnostic Investigation.

Curtis Kastner
of Kansas State received the Signal Service Award from the American Meat Science Association during the 1996 Reciprocal Meats Conference.

Hamid Salari, Philip J. Breen, Cesar M. Compadre, E. Kim Fifer and Danny L. Lattin of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy presented a poster on "Rapid Method to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Chemicals for Inhibition of Attachment and Removal of Pathogens on Meat Products" at the August meeting of the American Chemical Society Agriculture and Food Chemistry Section in Orlando, Fla. The poster was selected by the American Chemical Society for special presentation in its SCI-MIX Symposium, which showcases contributions of chemistry to society. They were also recognized by UAMS with the 1995 Inventor of the Year Award for their patented research.

At the American Chemical Society convention in Orlando, Compadre, Breen, Fifer, Lattin and Salari Amy Waldroup of Arkansas has been awarded a $10,000 grant from Los Alamos Technical Associates for research related to chemical disinfectants.

Waldroup has also been appointed chairman of the Food Safety Committee of the Poultry Science Association. In June, she prepared a generic HACCP model in June for the Broiler Slaughter Committee of the International HACCP Alliance meeting in Kansas City, Mo.

Waldroup also conducted a telephone interview with the Center for Science in the Public Interest concerning the incidence and levels of pathogens on raw poultry.

Mary Scantling, Mike Doyle, Alan Pace, Xing Dong and David Marsh, all of Arkansas, presented papers at the annual Poultry Science Association meeting July 8-12 in Louisville, Ky.

H.M. Stahr of Iowa State presented a paper on "The Problems of Aflatoxin and Fumonism Mycotoxins in Feed of Animals" in May at the University of Costa Rica in San Jose.

Stahr also co-authored an article on "An Improved Method for Analysis of Rumenism" published in the Journal of Diagnostic Investigation.

Curtis Kastner of Kansas State received the Signal Service Award from the American Meat Science Association during the 1996 Reciprocal Meats Conference.

Hamid Salari, Philip J. Breen, Cesar M. Compadre, E. Kim Fifer and Danny L. Lattin of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy presented a poster on "Rapid Method to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Chemicals for Inhibition of Attachment and Removal of Pathogens on Meat Products" at the August meeting of the American Chemical Society Agriculture and Food Chemistry Section in Orlando, Fla. The poster was selected by the American Chemical Society for special presentation in its SCI-MIX Symposium, which showcases contributions of chemistry to society. They were also recognized by UAMS with the 1995 Inventor of the Year Award for their patented research.

At the American Chemical Society convention in Orlando, Compadre, Breen, Fifer, Lattin and Salari of UAMS and Mike Slavik and Phil Matsler of the University of Arkansas Department of Poultry Science offered a podium presentation on "Cetylpyridinium Chloride Inhibits and Reduces Attachment of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella typhimurium to Meat."

An article by Breen, Compadre, Fifer, Salari, Lattin and Dellan C. Serbus - "Quaternary Ammonium Compounds Inhibit and reduce the Attachment of Viable Salmonella typhimurium to Poultry Tissues" - was published in the Journal of Food Science.

A patent application is pending in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from Compadre, Breen, Salari, Fifer, and Lattin of UAMS and Slavik and Yanbin Li of the University of Arkansas. Their proposed patent is "Improved Method for the Broad Spectrum Prevention and Removal of Microbial Contamination of Poultry and Meat Products by Quaternary Ammonium Compounds."

The task force charged with the development of the generic HACCP model for poultry slaughter as part of the USDA-FSIS grant through the International Meat and Poultry HACCP Alliance met in June in Kansas City. James Denton of the University of Arkansas, a Consortium steering committee member, was team leader for the workshop that included Ellis Brunton of Tyson Foods, a Consortium steering committee member, and Amy Waldroup of the University of Arkansas, a Consortium principal investigator.Other workshop team members were Mike Gregory of Hudson Foods, Ken May of the National Broiler Council, Jim Ayers of Gold Kist, Inc., Todd McAloon of Cargill, Inc., Chuck Wabeck of the University of Maryland and Elaine Dodge of Safe Tables Our Priority. The first draft of the Poultry Slaughter Model was prepared during the workshop and has been under review by representatives of small business and peer review by a panel of scientists and industry experts. The document has also been submitted to FSIS for preliminary review. The Alliance and representatives of the Generic Model Task Force have taken the position that the model was developed by experts and cannot be substantively modified without compromising the scientific integrity of the document.

James Denton, the director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas, was selected as one of six members of the Federation of American Societies of Food Animal Sciences to serve on the Safe Meat and Poultry Inspection Panel, which was created in the 1995 farm bill. The other members selected by the FASFAS board of directors were Susan Summer of the University of Nebraska, Gary Acuff of Texas A&M University, John Sofos of Colorado State University and Robert Cassens of the University of Wisconsin. The final decision on composition of the panel will be made the Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. Listed among alternates for consideration by panel members were Amy Waldroup and Richard Forsythe of Arkansas and Curtis Kastner of Kansas State.

James Kliebenstein of Iowa State co-presented a paper on "Food Safety Clauses in Swine Purchase Contracts" at the American Economics Association annual meeting July 28-31.

Richard H. Forsythe of Arkansas and Scott M. Russell of the University of Georgia co-authored "Building and Operating the In-House Microlab," which was the cover story for the September edition of Broiler Industry. Forsythe is a member of the Food Safety Consortium Steering Committee and is a former coordinator of the Consortium. He is currently president of Arkansas Research Management in Fayetteville.

Food Safety Digest

By Dave Edmark


The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued final approval for the chill water recycling equipment developed by engineers at American Water Purification, Inc., of Wichita, Kan., and tested by Food Safety Consortium researchers. USDA approved the process and the equipment that was used to recycle chill water at the Cargill, Inc., Honeysuckle White turkey processing plant in Springdale, Ark. The system saves water, sewer and electrical costs for processors.

The new system uses ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen, to recycle water in the plants. Consortium researchers who participated in testing of the system were Amy Waldroup and Richard Forsythe, both of the University of Arkansas, and H.M. Stahr of Iowa State University.

After evaluating data collected from a 30-day in-plant testing trial in Springdale, FSIS approved AWPI's Ozonated Water Recycling Process for use in federally inspected establishments.

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The Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas is sponsoring HACCP workshops for poultry processors on the following dates: Nov. 18-21; March 17-20 (for suppliers), and May 12-15.

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Congress has made major changes in the 1958 law known as the Delaney clause, which had prohibited any tolerance of cancer-causing residues in food. The new Food Quality Protection Act, signed by President Clinton, establishes a new standard of "reasonable certainty of no harm" for raw and processed foods. The legislation does not change the Delaney clause's original requirement for zero tolerance of carcinogenic food additives. Since 1958, technology has advanced to the point that much more minute levels of insecticide can be detected than was previously the case. Certain exceptions in the law would allow higher levels of insecticide spraying if there is a greater risk to health by not spraying or if farmers faced a severe crop loss. In those situations, food marketers would be required to display warnings that higher spraying levels were used.

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A survey sponsored by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in April found that 80 percent of respondents were confident that American beef was safe and wholesome. The survey was conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide, an independent research firm.

The survey was taken after the outbreak in British cattle of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), a degenerative neurological disorder. The disease didn't affect U.S. cattle, but American beef producers were concerned that news of the problems being experienced in the European beef market might cause a drop in confidence by American consumers.

The 80-percent confidence level that the survey found in late April was consistent with an 82-percent confidence rating found by a survey in early April, before news coverage of the British situation intensified. Although 86 percent of the respondents in late April were aware of news of the crisis with British beef, only 21 percent thought it existed in the U.S. and only 3.5 percent were eating less beef because of the BSE outbreak overseas.

"The bottom line for most consumers is that BSE never has been found to exist in the U.S.," said Rick McCarty of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "Also, there is overall awareness of industry and government programs to maintain meat safety."

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Web sites continue to proliferate. The Association for the Advancement of Science has launched a site called EurekAlert for announcements on research in science, medicine and technology. The Food Safety Consortium has registered as an institution with the web site and submits its news releases for posting with those from numerous universities and research institutes. The EurekAlert site is at http://www.eurekalert.org.

And don't forget to view the Food Safety Consortium's web site at http://www.uark.edu/depts/fsc. The home page includes links to information about the new HACCP meat inspection regulations announced by President Clinton in July. The links take the viewer to U.S. Department of Agriculture statements, summaries and news releases on the topic and news coverage.

Return to FSC Newsletter index page.