The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter

Vol. 9, No. 3

Summer 1999


  • FSC Urges Boost for Irradiation
  • Q&A in D.C.
  • FSC Attracts National Coverage
  • A Keen Eye for Suspect Spleens
  • Report From the Coordinator
  • Consumers, Managers Find Resources at ISU Web Site
  • KSU Finds Way to Preserve Bacteria
  • Papers and Presentations
  • Food Safety Digest


    Researchers Seek Expansion to Ready-to-Eat Products

    FSC Urges Boost for Irradiation

     
    Food Safety Consortium researchers, long advocates for food irradiation, took their message to Washington in the spring. The FSC called a news conference at the National Press Building and urged the government to expand the authorized use of irradiation to pre-cooked meat products.
     
    Regulations approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture allow irradiation only for refrigerated or frozen uncooked meat and poultry, but not for ready-to-eat meat products.
     
    The FSC delegation also told reporters that the government should take a more active role in educating consumers about the public health benefits of irradiation.
     
    "In processed, ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, pathogenic bacteria are destroyed during cooking," explained Dennis Olson, an FSC researcher who serves as director of Iowa State University's Utilization Center for Agricultural Products. "However, there is a brief opportunity for recontamination between the cooking and the packaging. Although recontamination is rare, irradiation of ready-to-eat meat products after packaging would ensure elimination of pathogenic bacteria that may have contaminated the product."
     
    Olson said there is a clear need for irradiation of ready-to-eat meat products. In the first few months of 1999 there were seven recalls of 40 million to 50 million pounds of meat because of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. "Irradiating those products after they had been packaged would have prevented those recalls and the illnesses associated with some of those products," Olson said.
     
    For the irradiation of ready-to-eat products to be authorized, the government requires approval of a petition. Olson said some petitions were in the works, but based on previous experience it generally takes five years for a petition to be cleared by the FDA and for final rules to be issued by USDA.
     
    "This time seems excessive in light of the existing international clearances of irradiation for processed meat products in 11 countries," Olson said.
     
    Irradiation is classified by the FDA as a food additive. Olson said that classification is part of the reason for the long time span between the submission of a petition to change the rules and the resolution of a petition.
     
    "We know that irradiation is a process. FDA knows that it is a process," Olson said. "We're the only country in the world that considers it an additive rather than a process. And yet we've also observed that its status as an additive is what's resulted in the very long delay in getting new applications of this process into the marketplace."
     
    Food safety relies on multiple barriers against disease, said Richard G. Hunter, deputy state health officer in the Florida Health Department. Those barriers include the production of healthy animals, proper processing and handling and adequate cooking.
     
    "Irradiation does not supplant requirements for sanitary food processing plants or the need for proper food storage and handling," Hunter said. "It does reduce the risk of disease should one or more of these barriers fail."
     
    Irradiation is sometimes known as "cold pasteurization," a point that Hunter used to draw a comparison with the advent of milk pasteurization 100 years ago. He noted that the public was uninformed about the benefits of pasteurization and was suspicious that it might harm their health or reduce the nutritional value of milk.
     
    "The public was slow to accept pasteurization because public health authorities did not advocate its use," Hunter said. "That is not the situation with irradiation. The American Medical Association, the World Health Association, the American Dietetic Association and a variety of other organizations endorse irradiation as a means of preventing foodborne illness."
     
    Although irradiated products can legally be marketed, food retailers are not doing so. But surveys supervised by FSC researcher John A. Fox of the Kansas State University agricultural economics faculty show that a majority of respondents prefer irradiated products when provided with unbiased science-based information about the process.
     
    Fox's surveys were conducted in Kansas. He said the findings were consistent with the results recorded in studies conducted in California, Georgia, Florida and Missouri since 1985.
     
    So why are irradiated products not available on the market? Fox said industry fears a consumer backlash.
     
    "Processors know that their irradiated products will be met by protests from the anti irradiation lobby," Fox said. "They also know that the anti-irradiation message is powerful because it plays to consumers' fears about food safety."
     
    Fox pointed out that when his surveys included only science-based information about irradiation, 77 percent of respondents preferred irradiated chicken. When "unsubstantiated information from irradiation opponents" was also provided, the preference rate fell to 43 percent. Then the surveyors provided information that refuted the opponents' claims and 84 percent supported irradiation.
     
    "Bottom line &emdash; consumers are generally receptive to irradiated foods when the benefits of irradiation are explained," Fox said. "USDA efforts to educate the public about this technology would benefit consumers."
     
    John Marcy, an FSC researcher at the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, said the problem was reflected in a Peter Hart Opinion '98 Survey in 1998 that showed 59 percent of respondents were not informed on irradiation. The same survey also showed that knowledge of irradiation increased the likelihood of respondents accepting it.
     
    "It is abundantly clear that for the process to move forward it will take a national effort to introduce the technology to the public," Marcy said. "Who should do this? The Opinion '98 Survey shows that the FDA and the USDA would be trusted to deliver the message."
     
    Marcy said there is an "undersupply" of irradiated foods regularly available in the U.S. and that situation would need to be addressed at the same time as a national education campaign.

    Q & A in D.C.

 
Here are some exceprts from the Food Safety Consortium's news conference in Washington to promote the expansion of irradiation to ready-to-eat meat products and to encourage a public education campaign on irradiation's merits.
 
* * *
QUESTION: If irradiation were common in the industry would the recent outbreaks of Listeria have happened?
 
DENNIS OLSON: If those products had been irradiated that would not have happened, no question about that. The technology is certainly sufficient to eliminate Listeria.
 
QUESTION: After products are irradiated and go to the supermarket, is there a possibility of contamination there so that irradiated foods could end up with bacteria?
 
OLSON: Any presence of pathogenic bacteria on food has some source of contamination. We don't live in sterile environments, so any food at any time could be contaminated. The process in irradiation is that you bring the product to the package in the best shape possible and then you irradiate to remove the pathogenic bacteria just like we do with milk pasteurization. And then it goes to distribution. The brief time you're removing it from the package before you're cooking is a very short period of time. And the chance of contamination at that time is relatively small. But if contamination were to occur, it would be only on the surface. When you cook the product, even if you've got the temperature of the internal part of it not high enough to kill pathogenic bacteria, you certainly get the surfaces (temperature) high enough. So you have a very safe system. Cooking would kill pathogenic bacteria. Irradiation adds a second layer, almost a doubling of the safety of that product.
 
QUESTION: Would you support labeling that tells consumers that products have been irradiated?
 
RICHARD HUNTER: The requirement now is that there be a radura, a green and white symbol with a logo to the effect that it's been treated by irradiation. I think that's a badge of pride. I think consumers should have a choice. If they're educated and they understand that the food enhances the safety of their family, rather than avoiding it I think people will ultimately seek it. Pasteurized milk says it's pasteurized on it.
 
QUESTION: Dr. Fox, in your survey can you reflect back on what arguments you got and what you used to counter them?
 
JOHN FOX: The majority of them, when exposed to both of the anti-irradiation claims and the counterclaims, ended up favoring irradiated foods. Of those that did not favor irradiated foods, even with all that information, the reason most often cited was that those people preferred in general less processing of their foods. It was not that they were scared of the irradiation process.
 
QUESTION: I've heard an argument that if irradation takes place at the manufacturer level that there will be carelessness down the line, perhaps at the supermarket level or at the consumer level.
 
FOX: I think you could make a useful analogy between food safety and automobile safety. When we introduced seat belts and air bags, we did not stop maintaining roads and bridges. We did not stop enforcing the rules of the road. We did not stop vehicle inspections. We didn't stop all the other things that contribute to road safety. The same applies to food safety. Irradiation, like your seat belt, can save your life if something goes wrong somewhere else in the chain. With irradiation, processors will still be required to have good sanitation, to test for Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens and to maintain their records. Food irradiation will not substitute for those other practices. It will complement them.
 

FSC Attracts National Coverage

 
News coverage of the Food Safety Consortium's press conference on April 22 in Washington spread from coast to coast. The Associated Press distributed an article about the FSC's irradiation message to its member newspapers and broadcast stations throughout the nation. Several newspapers, broadcast news services and science-oriented publications sent reporters to the press conference.
 
Newspapers that published articles about the FSC's call to action on irradiation included the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Des Moines Register, the Orange County (Calif.) Register, the Vero Beach (Fla.) Press Journal, Donrey Media Group newspapers, Food Chemical News and the White House News Bulletin. The news coverage also resulted in editorials calling for irradiation in the Denver Rocky Mountain News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Vero Beach (Fla.) Press Journal and the Ventura County (Calif.) Star.
 
A video monitoring service counted 21 television news programs that broadcast news of the press conference, including "CBS This Morning" and local programs in Washington, Baltimore, Dallas, Boston and West Palm Beach, Fla. National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" each broadcast segments on the event.
 

A Keen Eye Looks for Suspect Spleens

 
Poultry producers and processors look for hints of disease in their carcasses so they will know which ones to remove along the line. By using cameras and computers, the inspectors on the processing line may someday have the chance to get a quick indication of a slaughtered bird's health.
 
The technology is still developing a step at a time. So far, the research has yielded some results by singling out the size of a chicken's spleen.
 
"Spleen enlargement (known as splenomegaly) is one indication of whether a processed bird is wholesome poultry for human consumption or if it has a disease such as a tumor or infection," said Yang Tao, a Food Safety Consortium principal investigator at the University of Arkansas. Tao, a biological and agricultural engineering faculty researcher, has been working with U of A poultry science and federal Agricultural Research Service researchers to capture images of the spleen on the chicken carcasses.
 
The principle has been previously applied to fruits and vegetables. Tao noted that the application to poultry is a more difficult challenge but is possible because of computer technologies.
 
Zooming in on the spleen would ordinarily be a significant challenge. The liver and the spleen are both red and near each other inside the chicken. In some photos it takes a very keen eye to determine where one organ ends and the other begins. With the spleen's appearance similar to the liver's, a casual observer would find it difficult to determine whether it's an enlarged spleen or the combined image of a spleen and liver on the screen.
 
The system uses ultraviolet imaging and optical filtering to capture information and make it easier to identify the internal organs.
 
"Under the special optic system, the camera can see the spleen. The image shows the liver as yellow and the spleen as purple," Tao said. "Then you analyze how large it is with digital images. We remove the imaging 'noise' around it."
 
The researchers then use a computer program &emdash; the algorithm method &emdash; to analyze the image data. The program processes the information from the image and correlates relationships between spleen weights and bird body weights. This information is used to correlate the size of the spleen in question with the size of spleens known to be normal for a particular size of bird.
 
The system is developed enough that a company could put it on line to identify diseased spleens. But disease could potentially be present in other organs, so the researchers' goal is to develop a system that analyzes the images of several organs in the chicken at once. The system targeting the spleen is the first step toward that goal.
 
"We follow the principle of one step at a time," Tao said. "It's just like building blocks. You combine all the knowledge and integrate it into a system."
 
Development of future software programs for computer-assisted inspection could center around more than one camera on a processing line, with each camera looking at different angles of the passing bird. Then a program would summarize the data among the various body parts to pinpoint potential health problems.
 
"This goes beyond what the human eye can see," Tao said. "The computer will be able to point out if you have a suspicious chicken."

Report From the Coordinator

Charles J. Scifres

 
Elsewhere in this issue you will find a report on the Food Safety Consortium's presence in Washington during the spring to promote the expansion of irradiation to pre-cooked meat and poultry products. Our representatives explained at a well-attended news conference why they believe the federal government should authorize this step for the benefit of consumers.

 

This effort was an example of the Consortium's responsibility to be a proactive force in food safety issues. Our researchers have long been available for consultations with officials of government and industry. Their work product has consistently been a source to which fellow scientists have turned when dealing with food safety research questions.

 

By asserting the findings of its research in Washington, the FSC has properly exercised its responsibility to shed light on food safety issues being debated in the public arena. It is not always enough to have our research available for viewing in the scientific journals. When important regulatory decisions are yet to be made, the FSC should not hesitate to inform the public of the most relevant results of its research.

 

Our scientists are not lobbyists. They rarely spend time trying to influence legislation and regulations. Their research is considered part of the body of knowledge essential for decision makers to review as they weigh the issues. But occasionally researchers of the Food Safety Consortium are asked to testify before Congress or to offer advice to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the food safety topics that they have explored thoroughly.

 

When called, the Food Safety Consortium answers. Some issues are of sufficient importance that the Consortium must not wait to be called but must speak up on its own. Irradiation is one of those issues that dominates much of the national discussion on food safety. The Consortium's position on the subject was widely reported in the nation's news media following the Washington press conference.

 

The Consortium has a decade of service and research on its record. That fact means the Consortium has credibility when it addresses these questions. Anyone with something to say can speak out and be heard in this era of instant dissemination of information. Credibility is the key that assures our voice is not just heard but is heeded by policymakers.

 


Consumers, Managers Find Resources at ISU Web Site

As a self-described "old restaurant cook by trade," Jim Huss is used to working with consumers. So it seems natural for him to be developing ways to communicate with consumers about the safety of their food. Today he does so on the Internet.
 
Huss is an extension specialist at Iowa State University and coordinates the work of the Food Safety and Quality Team. The project team has developed a food safety education program on the World Wide web at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety. With a grant from the Food Safety Consortium, ISU has developed a web site designed to show consumers what they need to know about subjects such as foodborne pathogens, safe kitchens, and control points for food safety.
 
The project provides daily international food safety news in partnership with the University of Guelph. An interactive set of four food safety lessons is also a significant part of the web site.
 
"We enlisted high school teachers in Iowa who were teaching food safety and asked them to use our lessons," Huss said. "The test gain scores were high and significant."
 
The intent of the food safety lessons is to capture the interest of students by incorporating animation, sound and three-dimensional graphic effects. An assessment test, self-paced lessons and an achievement test provide students with immediate feedback on their performance.
 
The material is designed to engage all age groups and comprehension levels, particularly the younger ones. One lesson features a turkey named Fat Tom, which stands for Food, Acidity, Time, Temperature, Oxygen and Moisture &emdash; the factors that affect the growth of foodborne pathogens.
 
The World Wide Web has lived up to its name in regard to the lessons. "We have people who have written to us from around the world," Huss said. "The lessons have been translated into Italian and Japanese."
 
The ISU project team was futuristic. The food safety lessons came into play at just the right time. ISU wrote an application for a grant in 1995 seeking to develop a food safety education web site for consumers by 1998. In 1996, Huss noted, "the web took off." The number of users went from 1 million to 5 million and then 20 million. So the project was accelerated and the first version of the site went up in 1996.
 
"The food safety lessons were introduced at just the right time," Huss said. "The beauty of our lessons is that we don't maintain any copyright on it. We just turn it loose for free."
 
The project team analyzed web site usage for a three-week period in May 1999. More than 9,657 user sessions were logged. Users from 64 countries accessed the site. User sessions per day were 459 for an average of 12 minutes. Page views numbered 16,926. More than 17,800 consumers have accessed and completed one of the four interactive food safety lessons. More than 46,000 consumers have accessed the ISU food safety web site.
 
ISU designed another web site for food service managers that explains how to implement the federal food safety rules known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). This is a resource for managers who have attended a two-day training session on the ISU campus.
 
The ISU project team's future plans include developing a similar web site for food processors who are implementing HACCP procedures in their plants.
 
The web seems to be everywhere, but not everyone logs on to computers. To reach a broader audience, the project team designed and printed colorful bookmarks focusing on consumer critical control points for food safety. The bookmark highlights six tips for handling food in the home that will help avoid foodborne illness and includes the web site address for those who want to explore the site.
 
The focus of the bookmark was to provide consumers with easy-to-remember food safety messages," Huss said. "In 1996, the project team attended a food safety educators' conference in Washington and First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke to the group. She held up our bookmark and told them they really need to follow the lead of Iowa State and provide messages that are simple and clever."
 

KSU Finds Way to Preserve Bacteria

Beef processing plants are required to test their chilled carcasses to verify that their slaughter and dressing procedures are keeping E. coli contamination under control. Test results in a plant provide a base line that enables a company to determine how well it is doing when compared to national trends.
 
The problem that Food Safety Consortium researchers at Kansas State University have been solving deals with the loss of a substantial percentage of recovered E. coli cells in sponge bags during sample transport and analysis. The carcasses are tested by using cellulose sponges to swab 300 square centimeters of the surface to determine E. coli levels. Sponge samples are then placed in bags containing a diluent to hydrate the sampling sponges.
 
This is an important factor because sponge samples that are stored in a lab awaiting analysis can lose some of the E. coli population that had been collected, thus providing an inaccurate picture of the actual contamination level. The key is to store the sponge samples in a diluent that maximizes preservation of the bacterial population recovered from the carcass.
 
"We found that the organisms we removed from the meat with sponges did not remain alive very long in the bag using certain types of diluent some people were using," said Randall Phebus, a Consortium principal investigator at KSU. "Our studies have been directed at improving the method of sponge sampling so companies could use it as an indicator of process control."
 
KSU researchers examined different types of diluents to put in the sponge sampling bag, seeking to find one that would enable the organisms to maintain their viability while scientists conduct laboratory detection procedures. The most commonly used diluent has been Butterfield's phosphate buffer, which is provided in commercial sponge sampling kits. But after being placed in bags of the phosphate buffer, virtually all the E. coli collected as samples died within 24 hours, Phebus said.
 
"The results of the current and previous KSU studies clearly demonstrate that this diluent is incapable of maintaining E. coli viability in sponge bags during transport to analytical laboratories (even on-site) with reductions of greater than 65 percent observed," Phebus' team's report said.
 
A series of tests showed that buffered peptone water provided considerable improvement and the best survival ratio for the E. coli samples. The KSU team concluded that standardized use of this diluent should be implemented to improve the value of sponge testing on carcasses. Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun making the same recommendation.
 
"It is a significant improvement and it makes the sponge method better as a tool for process control management," Phebus said. "However, we still think we need to optimize it even more and that's what we're trying to do now.
 
"Our preliminary data indicate that only a small percentage of E. coli cells physically attached to beef carcass surfaces are recovered by the sponge during sampling procedures. We want to look into improving recovery of the E. coli cells from the meat using the sponge to obtain more accurate numerical estimation for use in effective process control."
 
Another advantage of buffered peptone water is that it serves as an acceptable medium for most Salmonella detection methods on meat and poultry products, and many processors and the USDA use carcass sponge samples for Salmonella testing.
 

Papers and Presentations

 
James Denton, Arkansas, was appointed by Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to the National Advisory Committee for Meat and Poultry Inspection. Denton participated in the committee's meeting in May in Washington and submitted written comments regarding the USDA FSIS concept paper for risk-free meat, poultry and egg products.
 
Amy Waldroup, Arkansas, was an invited speaker at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association annual Poultry Processing Workshop in May in Atlanta. Her presentation was entitled "Microbial Update &emdash; Intervention Strategies and Testing." She has also been invited to speak on "Campylobacter as a Foodborne Pathogen" at the annual Poultry Science Association meeting in August in Fayetteville, Ark.
 
Waldroup recently received outside grants from Alcide Corp., SafeFoods Corp., Apogenics, Inc., and Cargill, Inc. She was also elected to the Perry Johnson Registrars Advisory Board.
 
John Marcy, Arkansas; John Fox, Kansas State; Dennis Olson, Iowa State, and Richard Hunter, Florida Department of Health, spoke on the need for irradiation in ready-to-eat meat products at a Food Safety Consortium-sponsored news conference in April in Washington. (See articles elsewhere in this issue.)
 
John Marcy and Jon Porter, Arkansas, and Richard Linton and Ann Guentert, Purdue University, conducted a workshop on standard operating procedures, good management practices and HACCP for the meat and poultry in June at the University of Arkansas. The workshop was sponsored by the Food Safety Consortium, the Arkansas Poultry Federation and Ecolab Food and Beverage Division. Participants were from Cargill, Inc., OK Foods, Sam's Club, Simmons Food and Vlasic International. Marcy and Linton also conducted a similar workshop in March at the University of Costa Rica. Marcy also presented HACCP training in March for Tyson Foods in Springdale, Ark.
 
Gordon Schutze, Rossina Stefanova and M. Donald Cave, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, presented a paper on "Molecular Subtype Surveillance for Human Salmonellosis in Arkansas" at the American Pediatric Society and the Society for Pediatric Research in May in San Francisco. Schutze delivered a presentation on "Epidemiology of Salmonellosis in Arkansas" in May at the annual education meeting of the Florida Environmental Health Association in Orlando.
 
Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, delivered presentations on beef quality and beef safety in March at the Kansas State University Cattlemen's Day, in April at the Certified Angus Beef Roundup Seminar in Manhattan, Kan., and in May at the American Angus Association Seminar in Manhattan. He also delivered a presentation on "Beef Industry Food Safety Council Research Priorities and Meat Safety Research" to the Western Regional Research Group (W-177) annual meeting in January in Fort Worth, Texas. In May he worked with the Beef Industry Food Safety Council Research Priorities Groups on preharvest and irradiation research and related priorities.
 
Donald Kropf, Kansas State, reviewed the National Cattlemen's Beef Association information packet on irradiation.
 
Researchers at Kansas State received several grants recently. Elizabeth Boyle, Curtis Kastner and Jack Riley received a $57,950 grant from the state Department of Agriculture and a $20,000 grant from the state Department of Commerce and Housing, both for a position for HACCP assessment development and implementation. James Marsden, Randall Phebus, Elizabeth Boyle, Melvin Hunt, Curtis Kastner and Daniel Y.C. Fung received a $39,435 grant from the National Pork Producers Council for Salmonella risk assessment for blade tenderized, immersion-marinated, needle-injected and Fibrinogen-processed pork cuts during processing, storage and cooking. Randall Phebus received a $20,001 grant from the Defense Department for the study of reactive nanoparticles as destructive absorbents for biological and chemical decontamination. Phebus also received a $40,000 grant for the study of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 risk assessment for production and cooking of blade-tenderized and Fibrinogen process beef steaks. Kastner received a $20,000 grant from Cargill, Inc., for food safety risk assessment of E. coli 0157:H7 during production and cooking of Fibrinogen and needle (blade)-tenderized steaks and a $440,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for HACCP implementation and evaluation in small and very small meat and poultry plants.
 
Kathleen Hachmeister, Donald Kropf, James L. Marsden, Vineet Gill, R.J. Kaye, Curtis Kastner and Melvin Hunt, Kansas State, wrote a paper on "Effects of Repetitive High Energy Pulsed Power (RHEPP) Irradiation on Sensory Attributes, Color and Shelf Life of Ground Beef" for Kansas State's 1999 Cattlemen's Day.
 
Kelly Karr-Getty, Kansas State, wrote her 1999 Ph.D. dissertation on "Control of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in 90 mm and 115 mm Diameter Lebanon-style Bologna."
 
Daniel Fung, Kansas State, is serving as national president of Phi Tau Sigma, the honorary society of food science. In that capacity he has delivered lectures promoting food science, food safety and rapid methods at the University of Arkansas, Auburn University, North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Maine. He also conducted workshops in rapid methods in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Argentina.
 
Fung also received a grant from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to conduct research on "Reduction of Natural Microflora and Escherichia coli 0157:H7 by Combination of Hot Lactic Acid, Vacuum Packaging and Microwave Treatment of Subprimal Cuts." Fung and D.H. Kang have also submitted two patents for approval: one for thin agar layer method of recovery of injured cells and another for plating medium for lactic acid bacteria.
 
Fung has also received at least 50 contacts from news media for comment on his research into the effects of spices on E. coli 0157:H7. He was quoted in the May edition of Glamour magazine on the safety of sushi sold in supermarkets and in the February edition of the National Provisioner on the use of rapid methods by food microbiologists.
 

Food Safety Digest

By Dave Edmark

The Food Safety Consortium enjoyed good company in April when it endorsed irradiation of ready-to-eat products during its Washington news conference. The President's Food Safety Council made the same recommendation about that same time. Also that month, the National Restaurant Association's publication Restaurants USA provided details of its previously announced support of irradiation.
 
Lester Crawford of the Georgetown University Center for Food and Nutrition Policy was quoted in the article as saying that consumers are often cautious about new technologies. "The key to it is to go ahead and get it out there and start using it and continue with the consumer education," he said.
 
Crawford predicted that the public would eventually be enthusiastic about irradiated food. "The food scares of the future that will be emblazoned across the front pages of our newspapers will not come from irradiated food but will, predictably, come from non-irradiated food," he said. "Then the clarion cry of a new breed of consumerists might well be, 'What can we do to get more of our food irradiated?'"
 
* * *
 
With irradiation of uncooked meat and poultry products having received the necessary government approval, the next step is for industry to exercise its option to use it. James S. Dickson, the Food Safety Consortium program leader at Iowa State University, told the Midwest Poultry Federation convention this spring that irradiated meat and poultry would most likely be in the grocery stores in five to seven years.
 
Dickson predicted that fast-food restaurants would be the first to adopt irradiation and that cafeterias would also be among the early adopters of the process.
 
* * *
 
Although irradiation is not an authorized procedure for treating ready-to-eat products, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has recommended other ways for processing plants to control Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in those foods.
 
In May, FSIS published a notice advising plants to reassess their HACCP preventive control plans and to determine whether they adequately address Listeria contamination, a hazard known to occur in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.
 
FSIS also offered to help producers of ready-to-eat products by providing guidelines for testing procedures that verify the reliability of HACCP plans and sanitation practices. FSIS recommends that plants conduct environmental testing and test product surfaces for general Listeria species. The agency also suggests they test the end products for the presence of pathogenic Listeria monocytogenes.
 
In addition to targeting educational efforts to "at risk" consumers, FSIS and the Food and Drug Administration also plan a risk assessment of Listeria monocytogenes that will focus on all foods, particularly refrigerated ready-to-eat products. FSIS also plans to develop standards for ready-to-eat products that will address all pathogens.
 

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