The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
Vol. 14, No. 1
Winter 2004
 
Survey Shows Most Restaurants, Schools Don't Use HACCP
2-3-4: FSC Schools Dominate Meat and Poultry Rankings
Edible Film Protects Poultry From Campylobacter
Report From the Coordinator
With Irradiation, Public Opinion and Knowledge Diverge
Rapid Methods Conference Set for June at KSU
Papers and Presentations
Correction
Food Safety Digest

Survey Shows Most Restaurants, Schools Don't Use HACCP

Consumer confidence in the safety of food served in food service establishments can dramatically impact the success of their operations. Despite increasing sales in the restaurant industry, consumer confidence in the safety of foods served in restaurants has fluctuated in recent years, according to Food Marketing Institute consumer surveys.

A Food Safety Consortium research team at Iowa State University has surveyed the state's school food service operations and restaurants and found that most are not using the food safety procedures that are required of processing plants.

Most food service operations do not have formal science-based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs, which designate intervention points in food processing at which to prevent or eliminate contamination.

Formal HACCP programs have been in used in the meat, seafood, and juice processing industries for years due to federal mandates. However, HACCP programs in food service operations are not mandated and are significantly less common in the food service industry. Many food service operators have not implemented HACCP or HACCP-based food safety programs because of concerns about time, expertise and perceptions about extensive record keeping.

FSC researcher Dan Henroid and others in the ISU Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management program evaluated trends in HACCP program development in both school districts and restaurants in Iowa. Many food service establishments do not have appropriate prerequisite programs in place to implement HACCP. These programs are designed to protect food in storage and production, and form the foundation for HACCP.

A survey by former ISU graduate student Sukyoung Youn and professor Jeannie Sneed found that 24 percent of school districts surveyed nationwide had HACCP programs in their centralized school food service operations. They asked school food service directors if they offered several prerequisite programs that are considered essential to developing HACCP programs. Survey results published in the January 2003 Journal of the American Dietetic Association indicated 22 percent of the directors reported having comprehensive HACCP plans, 11 percent had a HACCP team, and 28 percent had a food product flow chart. Although 92 percent reported implementing standard operating procedures for their food service operations, only 43 percent had written standard operating procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment.

"We are actively working with school districts to develop HACCP programs in Iowa as part of a multi-year research project," Henroid said. "We are working with 38 school districts across the state that represent different types of systems for serving food to school children. This research was critical for establishing a baseline. With the results we can assess how representative the districts we work with are compared to other districts across the country."

Another survey, conducted by Sneed and former ISU graduate student Kevin Roberts, evaluated the extent to which prerequisite and HACCP programs were implemented in independent Iowa restaurants. They found that 8 percent of the respondents had comprehensive HACCP plans for their establishments. Forty-seven percent reported they had written standard operating procedures for their equipment, 67 percent did not have temperature calibration schedules for the equipment and 77 percent did not have temperature-monitoring logs. A complete report of the survey findings was published in the October 2003 Food Protection Trends.

"Overall, the results indicated that having an employee responsible for food safety was positively related to the number of food safety practices implemented," Henroid said. "In addition, female managers and those with higher levels of education were more likely to have food safety programs implemented.

"But it may be only a matter of time before somebody does mandate HACCP in the retail sector in limited segments," he said. "Are they ready for it? At least in food processing they're much more prepared to do it because of the scope and volume that they're producing."

Results from the surveys provide Henroid's ISU research team with information relevant for the HACCP training materials they develop. One set of materials provides complete training resources for food service operators and is available on the ISU HACCP Information Center web site at http://www.iowahaccp.iastate.edu. Materials done by other ISU research for other types of HACCP programs including meat and juice processing also can be found on this site.

2-3-4: FSC Schools Dominate Meat and Poultry Rankings
 
This time, the three universities of the Food Safety Consortium are ranked in the top four meat and poultry academic programs in the nation. The December edition of Meat and Poultry magazine revealed its third annual survey and placed Iowa State University in second, Kansas State University in third and the University of Arkansas in fourth.

 

 

 
The new survey represents some movement. Iowa State and Kansas State have been in second and third place in the previous two surveys, but Arkansas was in fifth place in those surveys. Texas A&M has been top ranked in all three annual surveys. Meat and Poultry reached the results after compiling information from faculty members at 40 schools offering meat and/or poultry programs.

For the first time, the magazine also provided rankings in specialized areas. Iowa State was number one among programs specializing in pork processing. Arkansas was top ranked for programs specializing in poultry processing. For schools specializing in beef processing, Iowa State was in second place and Kansas State was in third place.

Iowa State's overall second-ranked program, Meat and Poultry said, "is well known for its ability to produce top-shelf students with an impressive faculty line-up and industry-enhancing research, but its extension program and the variety of workshops and short courses it hosts serve as the model for programs throughout the country." The magazine also noted that Iowa State is on the cutting edge of irradiation research. It also cited ISU's food safety training program for industry and its 30,000-square-foot meat lab.

Kansas State's third-place finish was credited to a faculty team that is well represented in the American Meat Science Association and instructors who are active in other professional associations. The program is best known for its work in the areas of beef and pork research and education. "Current KSU students and faculty can be found working side by side with industry professionals, both on and off campus," the magazine said. "Besides holding education classes for companies in the industry, KSU also works with a variety of meat companies researching and developing new products, improving existing processes and on various food safety intervention technologies. KSU will soon be the site of a U.S. Department of Agriculture Biosafety Level 3 laboratory for studying animal and plant food safety and processing.

In ranking Arkansas fourth, the magazine noted that its poultry science, animal science and food science departments combine forces to put the university in the upper echelon of meat and poultry programs. "Thanks in large part to the support and proximity of Tyson Foods, Inc., the poultry science expertise at the University of Arkansas Center of excellence for Poultry Science is at the top of the pecking order," the magazine said. "Food safety research, technology and extension are a focus of all of the food-related programs at the university." The article mentioned Arkansas's role in the Food Safety Consortium, the 112,000-square-foot John W. Tyson Building that houses the poultry science department and labs, and other poultry research facilities on and near campus.
 
 
Meat and Poultry Top 10

1. Texas A&M University
2. Iowa State University
3.
Kansas State University
4.
University of Arkansas
5. Oklahoma State University
6. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
7. Colorado State University
8. Michigan State University
9. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
10. Auburn University

 

Top Programs Specializing in Pork Processing

1. Iowa State University
2. University of Illinois
3. Kansas State University
4. Purdue University
5. Oklahoma State University
 

Top Programs Specializing in Beef Processing

1. Texas A&M University
2. Iowa State University
3.
Kansas State University
4. Colorado State University
5. University of Nebraska
 
-------------
 
Top Programs Specializing in Poultry Processing

1. University of Arkansas
2. Texas A&M University
3. University of Georgia
4. Auburn University
5. Georgia Tech University
 
Source: Meat and Poultry magazine


Edible Film Protects Poultry From Campylobacter
 
To knock down the advance of the pathogen Campylobacter jejuni on raw chicken, Food Safety Consortium scientists Marlene Janes at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Michael Johnson at the University of Arkansas have found that a coating of an invisible edible film on the chicken's surface significantly reduces the level of contamination.
Marlene Janes of Louisiana State University examines edible film tht can protect raw poultry from Campylobacter jejuni.
The edible film is most effective when it consists of a combination of three antimicrobial agents: two proteins -- zein and nisin -- and the compound EDTA, which does the lion's share of the work in killing the pathogens. EDTA (ethylene diaamine tetraacetate) is a chelating agent, which means it binds to many different metal ions and prevents them from reacting with any other chemical that might be present. It is often used to clean people's arteries of toxic metals in the bloodstream.

"Zein by itself, EDTA by itself and nisin by itself has some benefit," explained Johnson, a food science professor at the UA Division of Agriculture. "But when the three compounds are combined you have your most effective treatment at refrigerator temperatures. It's like putting multiple blockers out there in football to keep the bacteria from ever getting out."

Janes' and Johnson's experiments showed that the EDTA treatment delivered the most killing power to the cocktail. Zein on its own doesn't have much killing power, but adding zein to the mix provided the way to deliver the killing agent.
"It's a food coating to give prolonged contact with the food surface," Johnson said. "We're using edible films to wrap chicken and provide a way for the delivery of antimicrobial treatments."

Raw poultry is susceptible to bacterial contamination during raw processing and this contamination can persist when such products are refrigerated at temperatures just above freezing, about 2 to 4 degrees C. Campylobacter jejuni, the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea, is a leading source of contamination in these circumstances.

Janes, who is now an assistant professor at LSU's Ag Center food science department, said individual companies that want to use the cocktail's ingredients already approved for use in other food products can receive approval to extend it to raw poultry by filing a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

"Companies are looking at this as a control measure," Janes said. "They see that it's something they can easily do."

Much of the poultry market today consists of value-added chicken that only needs to be heated in the oven. Adequate cooking will kill pathogens. Raw poultry, however, is still a popular item in kitchens. If it comes out of the refrigerator with Campylobacter jejuni on the surface, heat will kill the pathogens in the oven, but there remains the danger of cross-contamination while the uncooked product is on the counter being prepared for the oven.

"We have to beware of people being careless in the kitchen with the raw chicken," Johnson said. "They may fully cook the chicken, but did they disinfect their hands after handling the raw chicken and before making the salad or handling the rolls?" If the consumer didn't take the precautions, raw poultry that has been treated with the invisible film and EDTA would be a safer bet to help avoid foodborne illness from this pathogen.

Previous research by Janes and Johnson has found ways to use similar antimicrobial wrappers of zein and nisin to protect ready-to-eat cooked poultry from Listeria monocytogenes, a deadly pathogen for which federal regulators have declared zero tolerance.

But Listeria isn't a major threat on raw poultry as it is on ready-to-eat products. Johnson said. Listeria thrives best where it doesn't have much competition from other bacteria and it likes cold places like the refrigerator.

Report From the Coordinator
By Gregory J. Weidemann
 
The food safety research community has long been a beneficiary of coordination of its activities, as the existence of the Food Safety Consortium demonstrates. There is also always room for improvement, as was demonstrated in November with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's announcement that it has implemented a unified food safety research agenda within its agencies.

USDA's food safety regulatory agency, the Food Safety Inspection Service, identifies research necessary to its public health mission. The USDA Agricultural Research Service performs much of that research. The USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service funds much of the food safety research done outside USDA, such as that performed by the Food Safety Consortium's member universities as well as other universities.

USDA's new unified agenda includes research to:
As part of this effort, FSIS has also released a list of research needs for meat, poultry and egg products that it will encourage researchers in industry and academic institutions to address. The broad categories of that research are intervention strategies, methods development (sampling and detection), food security, risk benefit and cost/benefit analysis, and methods for evaluating program effectiveness.

This information can serve as an aid to researchers across our consortium and elsewhere in the nation as to what topics the federal government wants research personnel to concentrate their efforts. A detailed explanation of the FSIS priorities can be viewed at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/programs/research_priorities.htm. These are useful guidelines for the research community as we push in the same direction to support the nation's efforts toward a safer food supply.

With Irradiation, Public Opinion and Knowledge Diverge
 
Getting the word out about irradiation and other food safety issues frequently runs up against notions already in the public mind that don't always match up with the latest science.

"Researchers need to understand the difference between public opinion and public knowledge," said Toby Ten Eyck, a sociology faculty member and researcher at the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.

Research has shown that news media coverage about irradiation is balanced, noted Sean Fox, an agricultural economics and Food Safety Consortium researcher at Kansas State University. "But balanced is a problem," he added. "Balanced means equal time is being given to the benefits of irradiation as to the concerns that some people have about irradiation."

Reaching consumers with food safety information is a challenge influenced by the information they already presume to be true or the objections raised to research findings, even though the science is on the side of the research. The problem was the topic of a session in November at the Institute of Food Technologists Food Safety and Quality Conference in Orlando.

There are varying degrees of knowledge about food safety. Ten Eyck cited a Michigan State survey that showed that more than 95 percent had head of E. coli as a foodborne pathogen. But in the same survey, 41 percent thought it was not a common occurrence for people to become sick because of the way food is handled in their homes.

Industry is concerned that news coverage has lessened confidence in food safety. The Michigan State survey, when conducted among industry personnel, showed that almost half -- 49.2 percent -- believe media coverage has made food seem less safe than it is.

Fox noted that the apparently balanced media coverage is part of "this desire to be fair, to give both sides of the story." The catch is that when people get both sides of the story and hear equally of the benefits and potential risks of a new product, "they are put in a situation where they have to choose between a product that is familiar that they know versus one that's unfamiliar with unfamiliar risks. They're not going to make that jump if that's the type of information they get about the product."

The quest for balance isn't necessarily the correct path to follow. Larry Katzenstein, a longtime science journalist and currently a science writer at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said journalists should aim for scientific accuracy rather than balance.

"You should tell the journalists to investigate the benefits as they investigate the risks," Katzenstein said. "Tell the reporter not to let the hypothetical risk outweigh the proven benefits and tell them it's impossible to prove a negative, (to prove) that technology is not hazardous."

Public acceptance of irradiation is difficult to achieve partly because of what Katzenstein termed the "sacredness" of food. "Many people recoil at the notion that their food has been tampered with, even if these are changes that made the food safer and more nutritious."

 Rapid Methods Conference Set for June at KSU
 
Kansas State University will host the 24th International Workshop/Symposium on Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology on June 18-25 in Manhattan, Kan. Daniel Fung, a KSU food science professor and Food Safety Consortium researcher, is the conference director.

The conference will focus on the practical application of conventional and new commercial systems of rapid identification of microorganisms from medical specimens, foods, water and the environment. Workshop participants will receive eight days of intensive theoretical and hands-on training in microbiological automation under Fung's direction. Randall Phebus is the assistant director and Beth Ann Crozier-Dodson is the general laboratory coordinator.

The conference will include a mini-symposium June 18 and19. Participants who choose to attend only the mini-symposium will be charged a registration fee of $515. The fee for the entire week of mini-symposium and workshop activities is $1,895.

The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Holidome in Manhattan and Call Hall on the KSU campus. A block of rooms has been set aside for workshop participants at the Holiday Inn Holidome, 530 Richards Drive. Participants should refer to the workshop when making reservations directly with the hotel at 785-539-5311 or by fax at 785-539-8368. The rate for a single or double room is $70 plus tax per night. Reservations should be made before May 17 to receive the reduced rate.

Detailed registration information is available at the conference web site at http://www.dce.ksu.edu/dce/cl/microbiology/2004/index.html or by contacting Debbie Hagenmaier at 1-800-432-8222 from within the U.S., 1-785-532-5575 from outside the U.S. or by e-mail at debbieh@ksu.edu. Scientific information is available from Fung at 785-532-5654 or at dfung@oznet.ksu.edu.


Papers and Presentations
 
Curtis Kastner, Kansas State, spoke in January to the National Association of Retired Employees at KSU on "Food Safety and Security Initiatives." Also in january, kastner spoke on "Biosecurity Research Institute research and initiatives" at the KSU Research and Extension Annual Conference.

Daniel Fung, Kansas State, has been named a Highly Qualified Visiting Professor at the International Graduate School of Catalonia in Spain, where he will work with the university's doctoral program in food sciences. Fung also conducted a week-long seminar on rapid methods in microbiology in November at the University of Barcelona, Spain.

John A. (Sean) Fox, Kansas State, spoke on "Irradiation Education: The Effects of Information and Message Source" at the Institute of Food Technologists Food Safety and Quality Conference in November in Orlando, Fla. Fox also spoke on "Consumer Protection of Food Safety and Risk" at the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting in October in Fayetteville, Ark., and on "BSE: Risks and Countermeasures" at the Livestock Marketing Information Center annual meeting in June in Kansas City, Mo.

John Marcy, Arkansas, has been elected center director for the Center for Education and Outreach.of the National Alliance for Food Safety and Security. The NAFSS, which consists of 20 universities and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, has six centers that cover different issues in food safety. The Center for Education and Outreach has a responsibility for linking related activities in the other five centers and to take advantage of national opportunities to bring the diversity of NAFSS to this part of the homeland security agenda. Marcy is an Extension food scientist at the UA Center of Excellence for Poultry Science.


Correction
 
An article in the Fall 2003 edition of The Food Safety Conosrtium Newsletter about Navam Hettiarachchy's research project at the University of Arkansas on the effect of rosemary extract on irradiated chicken incorrectly explained the spice's effect in the lead paragraph. The paragraph should have read: "Spice can do more than just enhance the taste of food. One spice can prevent chicken from losing its original colors even after being irradiated."

Food Safety Digest
By Dave Edmark
 
During 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector general's office visited 104 laboratories at 11 higher education institutions (10 land-grant universities and one private institution; none were identified in the USDA report) that receive USDA funding for animal and plant disease research. The purpose was to evaluate the institutions' control over biological agents and toxins and chemical and radioactive materials because, the report stated, "in the wrong hands, some of these agents or materials could pose a risk to human health and agricultural production in the United States."

As a result of the findings from the visits, USDA agreed with recommendations from its inspector general, particularly that a consolidated set of security standards be established and implemented by all institutions receiving federal grant money for laboratory research. USDA said it had begun discussions with the Homeland Security Council to facilitate consolidated standards. Meanwhile, the report recommends USDA be proactive in providing guidance to institutions receiving the agency's grants. The consolidated standards, if implemented, would mandate:
The full report may be downloaded as a PDF document from a USDA web page at http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/50099-14-At.pdf.
* * *

Poultry USA magazine reports that a patent has been granted to the USDA Agricultural Research Service for a method that uses imaging systems to detect contaminants on food surfaces. ARS scientists in the Athens, Ga., Poultry processing and Meat Quality Research Unit developed the system. The researchers -- Bob Windham, Kurt Lawrence, Bosoon Park and Doug Smith -- invented the system that detects feces and recently ingested materials with 99 percent accuracy. The researchers are planning to test the system under commercial conditions. It has already been tested only on poultry at the ARS Russell Research Center in Athens.

* * *

The rate of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry dropped by 66 percent during the past six years and by 16 percent since 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in November. "These figures demonstrate that strong, science-based enforcement of food safety rules is driving down the rate of Salmonella," said Elsa Murano, USDA undersecretary for food safety. "These data validate our scientific approach to protecting public health through safer food."

The Salmonella rates were collected on random samples and analyzed between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2003. The results showed that 3.6 percent tested positive for Salmonella, down from 4.29 percent in 2002, 5.03 percent in 2001, 5.31 percent in 200, 7.26 percent in 1999 and 10.65 percent in 1998.

* * *

The food supply is safer, but consumers are still advised by the government to be cautious. Wisconsin officials told USDA in October of an outbreak of Salmonella Newport, caused likely by consumption or handling of raw or undercooked ground beef. That prompted the Food Safety and Inspection Service to issue an alert reminding consumers of the importance of thoroughly cooking and properly handling ground beef.

The four steps to decrease the risk of foodborne illness are 1) cooking to a safe internal temperature (160 degrees F for ground beef), 2) separate raw and cooked/ready-to-eat food to prevent cross-contamination, 3) clean the thermometer and utensils, and 4) chill leftover foods in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of taking them off the stove, oven or grill (within one hour on days when the temperature is above 90 degrees F).

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