The Food Safety Consortium Newsletter
Winter 1997
Vol. 7 No. 1

Articles in this issue:


Industry, Government Face Change,

FSIS Official Tells FSC

The new federal rules covering meat inspection represent a "cultural change" in the food processing industry and among government inspectors, Craig Reed, associate administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, told researchers of the Food Safety Consortium at its annual meeting in Kansas City in October.

Reed was the keynote speaker for the Consortium's two-day conference. In his position at FSIS, Reed concentrates on inspection operations and field operations. He was previously FSIS deputy administrator for inspection operations and director of the science division of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. He holds a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

 

FSIS associate administrator Craig Reed explains coming changes.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems will govern meat inspection procedures under the new rules. The system is a science-based process that places the burden of preventive measures on the industry in the early stages of food production rather than depending heavily on U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors at the end of the processing line.

Much is riding on the new system's success, Reed noted. The failure of the HACCP system's implementation could result in a push by some advocates for a "total control" system of inspection, he said.

FSIS is reorganizing itself in response to implementation of the new system. Reed said the agency is reîts number of district offices from 46 to 18 to streamline the mangement structure and to bring about greater consistency in advice offered from region to region. A service center is also being established to offer technical expertise and advice to field employees regarding the interpretation, application and enforcement of regulations, policies and systems. The center will also answer technical questions from industries and groups outside of FSIS.

The "scientific underpinning" that is HACCP's foundation is a necessary element that enables industries to explain their food safety-related decisions, Reed said. Without that base, the public will lose faith in the procedures, he added, pointing out that science provides foodborne illness data and a basis for determining if there is actually a relationship between a particular outbreak of illness and food. Science also provides the basis for the farm-to-table approach to food safety, he noted.

Employees in modern food processing plants must be educated in some basic food science and hygiene, Reed said. "The turnover is some of those plants is incredible," he said. Employees who are not properly trained to appreciate the special aspects of their jobs may begin to regard their jobs as working with "production units" rather than food that people actually consume.

"If you drop a 'production unit' on the floor, it's the same as dropping food," he said.


Industry Reps Review New HACCP Rules

The new rule implementing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards was the major development in food safety, industry representatives said in addresses to the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting in Kansas City in October. The new standards were announced in July by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A cooperative effort is necessary between industry and the Food Safety and Inspection Service to make the new system work, said Ellis Brunton, Tyson Foods group vice president for research and quality assurance. "We now have the opportunity to set new standards based on science and the HACCP principles," said Brunton, a Consortium steering committee member representing the poultry industry.

Brunton advised that sanitation standard operating procedures are prerequisites to implementing a HACCP program, followed by meeting performance standards or microbiological standards for raw species of meat.

Brunton warned that the new system still has undetermined elements. "They (the government) will take action if you fail to meet the criteria," he said. "We don't know what the action will be."

The Russian embargo on U.S. poultry imports was the other food safety issue that his industry faced, Brunton said. He explained that some out-of-condition products were shipped to Russia, prompting meetings between USDA and Russian agriculture ministry officials. The Russians conducted an investigation of 50 U.S. poultry plants and concluded that none of them met Russian food safety standards. After threatening to ban poultry imports from the U.S. within 30 days, the Russians and the USDA negotiated new poultry inspection criteria and later found that 200 U.S. poultry plants now meet their standards, Brunton said.

"But now we must test for Salmonella above and beyond what we normally do," Brunton said of the outcome of the agreement with the Russians. "I believe that food safety will continue to be a primary concern for exporting meat and poultry."

Representing the beef industry, Jim Riemann of Excel Corp. said the new HACCP regulations mean industry must educate its own workers and make them feel free to stop operations in a plant if a particular area needs to be cleaned. "Up until now, we could pass the buck to USDA inspectors," he said.

Both line workers and USDA inspectors must understand the potential consequences of allowing situations to get out of control in processing plants, Riemann said, noting that an undesirable situation exists if employees and inspectors without adequate education are allowed to implement a science-based inspection system.

Riemann, a member of the Consortium steering committee, said there is a need for the development of new and simpler technologies in plants because of the predominance of workers who are not well educated and in some cases do not speak English. Small plants will need to be shown how to perform the new required testing procedures or be directed to a testing lab to do the work, he said.

The pork industry needs to work with FSIS to increase awareness of pork processing standards and procedures that differ from those of other species, said Margaret Hardin of the National Pork Producers Council. Such steps will be necessary to insure that pork processors can meet the new performance criteria and implement the standards in plants, she said.

"Our current research will be looking at Salmonella levels on the farm and how these levels transfer to the plant and ultimately to the final product," Hardin said.

"Much of what we've done previously with regard to food safety research has been on the farm. In assuming responsibilities previously held by the National Livestock and Meat Board, the National Pork Producers Council is now starting to look into the plant as well as along the entire food continuum to address food safety concerns for the entire pork industry."

Hardin said the pork industry also needs a database of food safety research information to find out what has been learned. "Right now, we have to call every university and the government to find out current research projects," she said.

The new rule implementing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards was the major development in food safety, industry representatives said in addresses to the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting in Kansas City in October. The new standards were announced in July by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A cooperative effort is necessary between industry and the Food Safety and Inspection Service to make the new system work, said Ellis Brunton, Tyson Foods group vice president for research and quality assurance. "We now have the opportunity to set new standards based on science and the HACCP principles," said Brunton, a Consortium steering committee member representing the poultry industry.

Brunton advised that sanitation standard operating procedures are prerequisites to implementing a HACCP program, followed by meeting performance standards or microbiological standards for raw species of meat.

Brunton warned that the new system still has undetermined elements. "They (the government) will take action if you fail to meet the criteria," he said. "We don't know what the action will be."

The Russian embargo on U.S. poultry imports was the other food safety issue that his industry faced, Brunton said. He explained that some out-of-condition products were shipped to Russia, prompting meetings between USDA and Russian agriculture ministry officials. The Russians conducted an investigation of 50 U.S. poultry plants and concluded that none of them met Russian food safety standards. After threatening to ban poultry imports from the U.S. within 30 days, the Russians and the USDA negotiated new poultry inspection criteria and later found that 200 U.S. poultry plants now meet their standards, Brunton said.

"But now we must test for Salmonella above and beyond what we normally do," Brunton said of the outcome of the agreement with the Russians. "I believe that food safety will continue to be a primary concern for exporting meat and poultry."

Representing the beef industry, Jim Riemann of Excel Corp. said the new HACCP regulations mean industry must educate its own workers and make them feel free to stop operations in a plant if a particular area needs to be cleaned up. "Up until now, we could pass the buck to USDA inspectors," he said.

Both line workers and USDA inspectors must understand the potential consequences of allowing situations to get out of control in processing plants, Riemann said, noting that an undesirable situation exists if employees and inspectors without adequate education are allowed to implement a science-based inspection system.

Riemann, a member of the Consortium steering committee, said there is a need for the development of new and simpler technologies in plants because of the predominance of workers who are not well educated and in some cases do not speak English. Small plants will need to be shown how to perform the new required testing procedures or be directed to a testing lab to do the work, he said.

The pork industry needs to work with FSIS to increase awareness of pork processing standards and procedures that differ from those of other species, said Margaret Hardin of the National Pork Producers Council. Such steps will be necessary to insure that pork processors can meet the new performance criteria and implement the standards in plants, she said.

"Our current research will be looking at Salmonella levels on the farm and how these levels transfer to the plant and ultimately to the final product," Hardin said.

"Much of what we've done previously with regard to food safety research has been on the farm. In assuming responsibilities previously held by the National Livestock and Meat Board, the National Pork Producers Council is now starting to look into the plant as well as along the entire food continuum to address food safety concerns for the entire pork industry."

Hardin said the pork industry also needs a database of food safety research information to find out what has been learned. "Right now, we have to call every university and the government to find out current research projects," she said.

 

Brunton advised that sanitation standard operating procedures are prerequisites to implementing a HACCP program, followed by meeting performance standards or microbiological standards for raw species of meat.

Brunton warned that the new system still has undetermined elements. "They (the government) will take action if you fail to meet the criteria," he said. "We don't know what the action will be."

The Russian embargo on U.S. poultry imports was the other food safety issue that his industry faced, Brunton said. He explained that some out-of-condition products were shipped to Russia, prompting meetings between USDA and Russian agriculture ministry officials. The Russians conducted an investigation of 50 U.S. poultry plants and concluded that none of them met Russian food safety standards. After threatening to ban poultry imports from the U.S. within 30 days, the Russians and the USDA negotiated new poultry inspection criteria and later found that 200 U.S. poultry plants now meet their standards, Brunton said.

"But now we must test for Salmonella above and beyond what we normally do," Brunton said of the outcome of the agreement with the Russians. "I believe that food safety will continue to be a primary concern for exporting meat and poultry."

Representing the beef industry, Jim Riemann of Excel Corp. said the new HACCP regulations mean industry must educate its own workers and make them feel free to stop operations in a plant if a particular area needs to be cleaned up. "Up until now, we could pass the buck to USDA inspectors," he said.

Both line workers and USDA inspectors must understand the potential consequences of allowing situations to get out of control in processing plants, Riemann said, noting that an undesirable situation exists if employees and inspectors without adequate education are allowed to implement a science-based inspection system.

Riemann, a member of the Consortium steering committee, said there is a need for the development of new and simpler technologies in plants because of the predominance of workers who are not well educated and in some cases do not speak English. Small plants will need to be shown how to perform the new required testing procedures or be directed to a testing lab to do the work, he said.

The pork industry needs to work with FSIS to increase awareness of pork processing standards and procedures that differ from those of other species, said Margaret Hardin of the National Pork Producers Council. Such steps will be necessary to insure that pork processors can meet the new performance criteria and implement the standards in plants, she said.

"Our current research will be looking at Salmonella levels on the farm and how these levels transfer to the plant and ultimately to the final product," Hardin said.

"Much of what we've done previously with regard to food safety research has been on the farm. In assuming responsibilities previously held by the National Livestock and Meat Board, the National Pork Producers Council is now starting to look into the plant as well as along the entire food continuum to address food safety concerns for the entire pork industry."

Hardin said the pork industry also needs a database of food safety research information to find out what has been learned. "Right now, we have to call every university and the government to find out current research projects," she said.


Report From the Coordinator

By Charles J. Scifres

The Food Safety Consortium experienced a busy stretch of public activity during October. On a Thursday in Little Rock, Consortium investigators presented the entire day's program for the food safety component of the U.S. Animal Health Association's national convention. On the following Sunday through Tuesday, Consortium investigators, graduate students, government officials and industry representatives gathered in Kansas City for the annual meeting with numerous reports and presentations on the agenda.

The Consortium's personnel stay busy throughout the year, frequently finding themselves on the road presenting their research to conferences related to food safety or their own particular disciplines. Getting so many of them together in one place - at both the annual meeting and the USAHA convention - was a beneficial experience for everyone, not to mention a logistical feat in itself.

The annual meeting provides Consortium personnel the opportunity to become better acquainted with their colleagues' work through formal presentations and their progress reports published in the meeting's proceedings. The informal atmosphere of fellowship offers opportunities for researchers from different universities to discuss their work and exchange ideas. It was gratifying to observe many such encounters at this fall's meeting.

The poster session was a major highlight of this year's meeting. Investigators and graduate students from all the Consortium's institutions displayed nearly 25 posters highlighting their research. The posters, on display throughout the meeting in the same room where all meeting sessions were held, attracted considerable attention and discussion right up until the last ones were dismantled to make way for the hotel's next event.

The annual meeting has long been the chance for the Consortium to show its work to its own people. The USAHA convention was an opportunity to do so for numerous scientists from around the nation to become familiar with the Consortium's work. Another opportunity to show the Consortium's accomplishments to others will occur in 1997 during the food safety symposium for industry that will be held at the University of Arkansas.

The Consortium continues to attract outside recognition. One recent example came from Congress, which mandated the Consortium's establishment nearly nine years ago. Before Congress adjourned last fall, Rep. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the outgoing chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, asked the Consortium to review the USDA Economic Research Service report on matters pertaining to food safety. The chairman said the committee would benefit from an expert review of USDA's report as its members attempt to evaluate the costs and benefits of any proposed changes in food safety inspection laws or regulations.

The Consortium is grateful for such confidence in its expertise expressed at such high levels of government. That confidence would not be there without the continued excellent day-in and day-out work performed by the researchers, work that many of us see for the first time during the presentations at our annual meetings. The nation is paying attention to what our people are doing and we will continue to maintain a high level of confidence.


Children and Industry Benefit From FSC Outreach

The accomplishments of scientific research at the front of the food safety chain can be undone at the end of the line if food preparers or consumers fail to perform some vital tasks - proper hand washing among them. So Food Safety Consortium personnel in Arkansas have taken their message to groups that can benefit from some basic presentations.

For the poultry industry, the Consortium presents workshops to bring poultry plant managers up to date on the changes in procedures that new federal rules will mandate in phases over the next three years. For consumers, the Consortium is working with Cooperative Extension Service personnel and directly with child care providers to spread the word about hygiene and food safety.

The Consortium program at the University of Arkansas supports the workshops held periodically on campus for the poultry industry. These sessions review the changes resulting from the newly mandated Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures. "The feedback has been excellent," said John Marcy, a UA food science specialist in the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and a Consortium principal investigator.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has ordered that meat and poultry processors implement the science-based HACCP procedures in their plants. Plants are required to identify points in their processing systems in which chemical, physical or microbiological hazards can occur. The plants must establish controls to prevent, eliminate or minimize the hazards and maintain records that show the controls are working. USDA inspectors at the plants will verify each plant's plan and its effectiveness.

The HACCP implementation courses at the university have attracted poultry industry personnel from all processing plants in Arkansas and some from Texas. "We've filled two classes," Marcy said. "We give them lots of reference books and we send them through a process. The primary focus is keeping it real simple."

In preparation for the effective date of the new sanitation regulations in January 1997, the Consortium sponsored two HACCP workshops that included sanitation. In March, another workshop will be oriented toward poultry plant suppliers.

The official regulation implementing HACCP fills only 18 pages of text in the Federal Register. Its length isn't so much a source of potential bewilderment for industry personnel as its implications could be.

"The main thing is interpretation," Marcy said. "Almost all USDA regulations are worded that loosely. The final say goes to the inspector in the plant."

Food safety researchers also know that an outreach program to consumers is vital, and two groups of people who serve large quantities of food are prime targets: food service personnel and child care providers.

Marcy and Amy Waldroup, a UA poultry science professor and a Consortium principal investigator, worked with the Arkansas Hospitality Association and the Arkansas Department of Health to develop a program that trains Cooperative Extension Service personnel in the basics of food safety education. With personnel in all 75 Arkansas counties, the Extension Service and the Hospitality Association appeared to be the logical place to ensure that a wide net was cast.

A network of 50 teams of Extension home economists worked in clusters to offer training to restaurant and food service personnel. The university researchers were able to help the home economists relate their knowledge to the needs of the commercial marketplace.

"Home economists are good adult educators but they usually don't have the background to relate directly to a restaurateur," Marcy said. "They know a lot about food science, kitchens, cooking and food safety, but more from the consumer's end. When you get into the quantity in a commercial kitchen, it's considerably different."

The UA team used a similar concept when they took their project to child care providers. Using a cost-recovery program, the researchers developed a 10-hour course in which Extension personnel would train child-care workers in food safety procedures applicable to day-care centers. They consulted with child-care providers to find out what they believed they needed to learn. The is`the researchers was, "How do we market this so it's user friendly and they'll want to use it?" Waldroup said.

"We didn't develop any new curriculum," Marcy said. "We pulled things together that were already out there. This is straightforward basic education. But it's more than just giving them a pamphlet."

Extension agents have been trained in each county and they will provide training to day care centers in their home counties to meet the demand.

The program covers more than food safety, Waldroup explained. It has a component on early childhood nutrition, child development and meal management with a health unit included in the food safety portion.

Teaching assistant Tammi Cagle of Arkansas Better Chance day-care center at Jefferson Elementary School in Fayetteville has taken the 10-hour course and learned how to apply the important aspects of nutrition and cleanliness to her center. Cagle sponsored a family day at the center as parents were invited to participate in showing their children how to wash their hands properly before meals. Cagle also learned how to apply Waldroup's puppeteering skills to her classroom after Waldroup demonstrated the use of food safety-conscious puppets to the class.

"She showed me the puppet show and now I do it for the kids," Cagle said. "The kids seem to listen to the puppets."


Kansas State University

To Host Rapid Methods Workshop

The 17th annual Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology International Workshop will be held July 11-18 at Kansas State University. Dr. Daniel Fung, a principal investigator with the Food Safety Consortium and a KSU professor of food science, is the workshop director.

The workshop is designed for microbiologists, food scientists, medical technologists, consultants, quality assurance and control managers, laboratory directors and researchers. It will focus on the practical application of conventional and new commercial systems of rapid identification of microorganisms from medical specimens, food, water, and the environment. Workshop participants will receive eight days of intensive theoretical and hands-on training in microbiological automation under the direction of Fung, an internationally known authority in the field.

A special two-day mini-symposium will be offered July 11 and 12 as an integral part of the workshop. Workshop participants must attend both the symposium and the workshop. Some individuals may opt to attend the symposium only.

For information about registration, call 1-800-432-8222 from within the U.S. or 1-913 532-5575 from outside the U.S.; send an e-mail message to ksuconf@dce.ksu.edu, or write to Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology - Registration, Kansas State University Division of Continuing Education, 131 College Court Building, Manhattan, Kan. 66506-6015.


Papers and Presentations

Cesar Compadre, Philip Breen, E. Kim Fifer and Hamid Salari of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences presented a paper on "Chemical Methods for Contamination Reduction on Meat" at the United States Animal Health Association meeting in Little Rock, Ark. They also presented a paper on "Quaternary Ammonium Compounds: Basic and Applied Studies to Prevent Bacterial Attachment" at the Food Safety Consortium annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo. Michael Slavik, Yanbin Li, and Phillip Matsler, all of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and Breen, Compadre and Salari presented a paper at the FSC annual meeting on "Bacterial Potency of Cetylpyridinium Chloride for Reducing Salmonella typhimurium on Pre-Chill Chicken Carcasses."

Steve Gorton, James Kliebenstein and George Beran of Iowa State University presented papers on "A Discussion of an Epidemiologic and Economic Consideration in HACCP Evaluation: An Application of Salmonella" at the Symposium on Salmonella in the Food Chain at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, and on "HACCP On-Farm Salmonella Validation Testing: An Economic Comparison by Farm Size" at the FSC annual meeting in Kansas City.

Jeff Zimmerman, Tanya Roberts, James Kliebenstein, S. Patton, C. Faulkner, V. Diderrich, A. Assadi-Rad and P. Davies of Iowa State published "Seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in Hogs in the National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS)" in the October 1996 edition of Eukaryotic Microbiology. Kliebenstein, Zimmerman, Patton and Roberts published "Prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii Antibodies in Hogs, Farm Management Practice Relationships, and Economic Costs" in the 1995 Swine research Report, ASL-R1318, released in January 1996 by Iowa State.

Dermot Hayes, Jason Shogren, S.Y. Shin and James Kliebenstein of Iowa State published "Valuing Food Safety in Experimental Auction Markets" in the February 1995 edition of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Eugene Pirtle and George Beran of Iowa State published "Stability of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus in the Presence of Fomites Commonly Found on Farms" in Vol. 28, No. 3 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association.

Harley Moon of Iowa State published "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy: Hypothetical Risk of Emergence as a Zoonotic Foodborne Epidemic" in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 59 (10). He also delivered a presentation on bovine spongiform encephalopathy on Nov. 15 at the Iowa Dietetic Association annual meeting.

Harley Moon and M.J. Wannemuehler of Iowa State, Brad Bosworth of the National Animal Disease Center and J.T. Samuel of Texas A&M University received a $772,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for the study of "Intervention in E. Coli Verotoxemia: Swine Model" from 1996 to 2001.

Bradley Marks, Michael Johnson and Haiqing Chen of Arkansas received a $38,900 grant from the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association for "Visible/Near-Infrared Spectroscopy for Rapid Non-Destructive Evaluation of Process Lethality in Poultry Cooking Systems."

Gordon Schutze, H.A. Fawcett, M.J. Lewno, Ellie Flick and Russell Kirby of Arkansas Children's Hospital published "Prevalence of Salmonella enteritidis in Poultry Egg Shells in Arkansas" in the Southern Medical Journal, 1996, Vol. 89.

Amy Waldroup of Arkansas delivered a presentation on "Chemical Disinfection of Poultry" on Oct. 17 at the United States Animal Health Association annual convention in Little Rock, Ark., and on Nov. 4 at the Poultry Processors Workshop in Fayetteville, Ark. Waldroup also received $10,000 grants each from Los Alamos Technical Associates and Bavaria Corp. She was also interviewed by Meat and Poultry magazine.

David Marsh of Arkansas recently completed his master of science degree on "The Use of Chlorine Dioxide in Poultry Processing Plants" and has gone to work for Miller Aldrich.

Curtis Kastner of Kansas State delivered a presentation on "Meat Safety Issues and research" Jan. 9-10 at the Western Regional Project W-177 meeting in Denver.

Curtis Kastner, Daniel Fung, R.K. Podolak and J.F. Zayas of Kansas State published "Reduction of Bacterial Populations on Vacuum-Packaged Ground Beef patties with Fumaric and Lactic Acids" in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 59, No. 10. They also published "Inhibition of Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Beef by Application of Organic Acids" in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 59, No. 4.

Kelly Karr, Elizabeth A.E. Boyle, Curtis Kastner, James Marsden, Randall Phebus, Ram K. Prasai, and C.M. Garcia Zepeda of Kansas State and W. Payton Pruett Jr. Of Webb Technical Group in Raleigh, N.C., published "Standardized Microbiological Sampling and Testing procedures for the Beef Industry" in the Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 59, No. 7


Food Safety Digest

By Dave Edmark

The 1996 survey of the public's perception of food safety issues shows that Americans take those issues more seriously than they did previously. Among consumers surveyed, 82 percent viewed the preparation and handling of food in the home as very important, up from 59 percent who said so in 1995. Newspaper editors who decide how food safety articles will play in their publications weren't quite as emphatic but they have definitely caught on to the subject in a year's time. The survey showed that 69 percent of editors believed food handling and preparation is an important issue to the public at large, up from 14 percent who held that opinion in 1995.

The survey is done annually by CMF&Z Public Relations in Des Moines, Iowa. The agency found that editors and consumers have different views on the importance of overall food safety issues beyond the narrower matter of food handling in the home.

Among food editors, 48 percent said food safety is an important issue to consumers, down from 57 percent in 1995. Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of consumers considered food safety to be an important issue.

"The implications of the widening difference in perceptions between consumers and editors regarding the overall importance of food safety means that communicators need to work differently with editors, by being better prepared to respond to scares or crises, rather than relying solely on communicating in more traditional ways, said Carol Bodensteiner, CFM&Z president.

When asked whether food safety rules are tough enough, 67 percent of the consumers and 58 percent of the editors said they were not. The survey was conducted before the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the implementation of new rules strengthening meat and poultry inspection procedures and instituting the science-based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points system.

The question of who is doing a good job of ensuring food safety brought these responses: More than half of the consumers and editors said supermarkets, producers and farmers were doing an excellent job; editors ranked restaurants in third place and consumers in fourth place; consumers ranked themselves third and restaurants fourth; and less than 40 percent of editors and consumers rated gave votes of confidence to government agencies and meat and poultry packers.

The survey found that the public is not aware of much information about the irradiation of meat. Forty-five percent of consumers believed irradiation would be effective, but 20 percent of consumers had no idea what irradiation is. More than half of the consumers were unable to provide any details when asked what they had seen or heard about meat irradiation.

* * *

It's not apparent that anyone has done such a poll, but Dr. Charles Beard suspects that if consumers were asked to name a foodborne illness and its most frequent source, most respondents would say, "salmonella from chickens." Beard, vice president of research and technology with the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, said in a speech in October to the National Meeting on Poultry Health and Processing that there is some encouraging news that may help change that perception.

Beard noted that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service conducted a microbiological survey of processed whole broilers in plants around the nation. The survey showed that no salmonella was recovered from 80 percent of the 1,297 broiler samples. Of the 20 percent that tested positive, more than 87 percent of that segment had less than 0.3 bacteria per milliliter of rinse fluid, and 96.5 percent of the positive-testing broilers had three or fewer bacterial cells per milliliter of fluid.

Beard said it was remarkable that the poultry industry had achieved such a low level and incidence of salmonella on a product that must be cooked before being consumed.

"Faced with the reality that salmonella is present in essentially all of the animal species and, therefore, in the environment all around us, it is highly unlikely that the industry can produce, with 100 percent assurance, a constant supply of broilers that are completely free of salmonella," Beard said. "It is also likely that both the levels and incidence of salmonella will continue the overall downward trend interspersed with occasional periods that show increased spikes associated with weather or unknown factors."

The most the poultry industry can do, Beard said, is to get the incidence and levels of salmonella on all raw chicken as low as humanly possible. "There is no way that industry alone can quickly change the public perception of the salmonella-chicken connection," Beard said. "We can only continue to improve the poultry products to the point that when salmonella foodborne outbreaks occur, the investigators will have to look at the uncooked foods and institutional abuses as the likely source of the problem. There is nothing to be gained by debating the pros and cons of reducing the presence of salmonella on poultry products even more. We need to just get going and get it done."


Letter to the Editor

Editor,

Reference is made to the Vol. 6, No. 3, issue of the Consortium newsletter and the article about HACCP. This is a good article and gets into the recent issues in the application of HACCP, in particular its application to meat and poultry. I have a hard time with the title of the article ("HACCP Has Origins in the Early 1980s"). The Pillsbury Co. which is mentioned in the article did reduce to practice the concept of HACCP. The concept was imposed on Pillsbury by NASA contract requirements and I was the sole scientist in charge of flight food and nutrition at NASA Houston when this requirement (the first to be imposed on the food industry measurement and monitoring of food pathogens) occurred.

First CCP was a requirement for all Apollo program components. This management tool was requirement in all activity pertaining to Apollo systems. With the help of NATICK Labs, I had required the measurement of food pathogens in Project Gemini and these were part of the specifications (chemical, physical and microbiological) that were developed. I used these for Apollo because the only difference was feeding one more astronaut and I could not justify reinvention for Apollo purposes. The contract to implement all this went first to Melpar Corp. with Pillsbury as the subcontractor. When costs got ridiculous, the contract was reissued directly to Pillsbury. Dr. Howard Bauman (a microbiologist) and director of research led the Pillsbury team that reduced the requirements to the practice subsequently labeled HACCP. Pillsbury had been one of the subcontractors (for bakery-type items) in Project Gemini so they already had some experience with some of the specifications.

Now you have the full history of HACCP. Incidentally, the U.K. food company Mark and Spencer implemented HACCP before the end of the Apollo program and has an extensive experience with many types of food and yet no one in the U.S.A. has tapped this experience.

Paul A. Lachance, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair

Department of Food Science

Rutgers University


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