Heidi Parsons – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com Breaking news for everyone's consumption Mon, 30 Jul 2018 23:59:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.4&lxb_maple_bar_source=lxb_maple_bar_source https://www.storkxx.com/files/2018/05/cropped-siteicon-32x32.png Heidi Parsons – Food Safety Website https://www.storkxx.com 32 32 An Old School Business Goes New School on Food Safety https://www.storkxx.com/2013/06/an-old-school-business-goes-new-school-on-food-safety/ https://www.storkxx.com/2013/06/an-old-school-business-goes-new-school-on-food-safety/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 05:18:50 +0000 http://www.storkxx.com/?p=71513 Continue Reading]]> When your company’s reputation for all-natural, premium-quality products is 100 years old and the nation’s top chefs comprise your major market, each day’s production has a rather high bar to meet. Mike Satzow, the third-generation owner of North Country Smokehouse, Claremont, N.H., knows not only where that bar is set, but the factors that could hobble his operation’s success. “We’re not smart enough to compete on price,” he jokes, “so we have to maintain consistently high quality and uncompromising food safety standards.” Certified Humane program which validates proper care and handling of livestock and allows North Country to use a “Certified Humane” mark on a number of its products. When the pork comes in, North Country butchers hand-trim the meat and cure it in locally sourced maple syrup and spices for several days. Meat bound for sausage is blended with all-natural ingredients such as apples, aged cheddar, wine, or herbs and stuffed into natural casings; North Country does not use fillers, monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, liquid smoke, or dyes in any of its meat products. The finishing touch is applied in the smokehouse, where German-made smokers transform chunks of Applewood and other high-quality hardwood into “an intense, humid smoke” that permeates the meat for up to 10 hours. North Country’s motto is “food that’s rooted in passion tastes better.” Among the justifications for that assertion, Satzow notes that in February, his company’s Andouille sausage won the North American Meat Association’s (NAMA) 2013 “Hold the Mustard” award at MEATXPO’13, the group’s annual suppliers’ exposition and convention. The award is one heck of a compliment, as it means that a significant percentage of the meat industry professionals attending the Expo’s Gourmet Sausagefest—that is, Satzow’s peers—thought his product was the best of a dozen or so they had tasted that evening. Befitting their position as one of the gold standards of New England’s finest meat processors, North Country Smokehouse is the house purveyor for the James Beard Institute in New York City. Upscale hotels, restaurants, institutions, and cruise lines are the company’s primary clientele, and the public can purchase North Country products through the company’s e-commerce site. “We also have a secondary retail presence through specialty shops throughout New England and the greater Northeast,” Satzow added. “We sell almost exclusively under our own brand [rather than private label]. Retailers who offer our product say it creates velocity for their stores.” A New Value Proposition While many specialty food purveyors might envy North Country’s stellar reputation and elite clientele, Satzow offers one caveat: “We’re only as good as the last batch of product we’ve delivered.” He explained that his firm does not advertise, but builds and maintains its customer base through intensive relationship marketing. “We work directly with chefs, and the key to those relationships is that once you gain a chef’s trust, you gain an extremely loyal customer,” Satzow said. “By the same token, however, if we were to lose that trust because of a quality or safety issue, it is likely we would never get it back.” As particular as he is about the raw materials, ingredients, and processing techniques used in creating North Country products, Satzow has established an aggressive food safety program to protect his legendary brand name. It is noteworthy that the same New England values that have led Satzow to use old-fashioned, higher-cost ingredients and processing methods have also compelled him to pursue leading-edge, money-saving food safety technologies. An Ounce of Prevention Having grown up in the meat industry, Mike Satzow knows that cleaning and sanitizing processing equipment and the overall plant environment only partially solves the food safety equation. Thus, in 2011 he and his staff began researching and evaluating antimicrobial treatments designed for direct contact with food products. The search was challenging, because they needed a treatment that was highly effective at killing pathogens but would not alter their products’ flavor or texture. One treatment that Satzow considered promising was Listex®, a culture of bacteriophages that are effective against Listeria monocytogenes, developed by Micreos Food Safety, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Bacteriophages (or phages for short) are microorganisms that kill only bacteria. Phages are specific to their target bacterial species, and will not affect desirable bacteria in foods (starter cultures, for example), beneficial bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract, or other useful, non-pathogenic bacteria in the environment. North Country reviewed the supplier’s efficacy data and did some in-plant testing of its own. Satzow also spoke with colleagues at a Canadian food company that was using Listex and had a good experience with it. Listex was approved by Health Canada before the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) green-lighted it for use in U.S. in May, 2011. Per the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR 172.785) and Directive 7120.1 from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), “Safe and Suitable Ingredients used in the Production of Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products,” Listex may be applied to the surface of ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products “to achieve a level of 1 x 107 to 1 x 109 plaque forming units (pfu) per gram of product.” In addition, Listex is GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe), natural, and organic, so it is listed by the Organic Material Review Institute for use in processing of natural and organic foods. “When the USDA approved Listex as a processing aid, we jumped on it,” Satzow remarks. “We felt it was an innovative treatment, and we liked the fact that it is applied topically. It allowed us to improve our food safety standards without compromising key attributes of our product, such as flavor and texture.” Dirk de Meester, Micreos’ business development director, explains that phages do not alter the organoleptic properties of the finished product such as taste, texture and color. Some microbial treatments may be effective against Listeria but usually have undesirable effects on the meat product. Although Listex is an inexpensive processing aid, cost was the least of Satzow’s concerns. “We don’t put a price on food safety,” he said. “We set the highest bar possible for the safety and quality of our products.” Listeria is considered one of the most dangerous food safety threats, due to its high mortality rate—more than 20 percent overall and higher still among the elderly—and its risk to pregnant women, de Meester explained. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent of listeriosis cases occur during pregnancy, and newborn babies suffer the most serious effects of infection. Given that any ready-to-eat food product is susceptible to Listeria, the human and financial costs of a potential listeriosis outbreak are unacceptable, especially to a small company such as North Country. Although Listex does not have to appear on product labels because it is classified as a processing aid, Satzow says he does make an effort to educate his customers regarding his company’s no-holds-barred approach to food safety. “Our industry is not known for its transparency, and too many [members of the public] don’t believe the meat industry is doing everything it can to provide the safest possible product,” he said. “We in the industry are partially responsible for that because we don’t explain the complex issues behind ensuring the safety of our products and we don’t educate the consumer as to why we use the chemical or biological interventions that we use.” On the other hand, Satzow admits that his company has experienced pushback from a few customers, “because we did explain that we are using phages and the idea of using them to kill bacteria seemed like science fiction to them.” In fact, he notes, using phages is simply good science. Phages are time-honored products that go back to the days before penicillin was discovered. He says, “Now we use the language, ‘a natural product that changes the DNA of Listeria’.” De Meester further explains that while the history of using phages is well documented, today the field is being revolutionized. “With today’s technology we can actually look on the molecular level and see how phages work against bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes.”   ___ The Food Safety Website series on processing aids is sponsored by Micreos. Heidi Parsons is a writer, editor, and content manager for print and online media. During her 15+ years in business-to-business publishing, she has covered food processing, institutional foodservice, packaging, pharmaceuticals, and police canine handling. ]]> https://www.storkxx.com/2013/06/an-old-school-business-goes-new-school-on-food-safety/feed/ 2 Antimicrobial Umbrella Helps Deli Supplier Walk Food Safety Tightrope https://www.storkxx.com/2013/06/antimicrobial-umbrella-helps-deli-supplier-walk-food-safety-tightrope/ https://www.storkxx.com/2013/06/antimicrobial-umbrella-helps-deli-supplier-walk-food-safety-tightrope/#respond Mon, 10 Jun 2013 05:55:22 +0000 http://www.storkxx.com/?p=71227 Continue Reading]]> In the decade since the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued 9 CFR Part 430, “Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat (RTE) Meat and Poultry Products; Final Rule”, concern over L. monocytogenes contamination of RTE meat products in retail delis has “blown up.” As evidence of that concern, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) jointly held a public meeting on May 22 in Washington, D.C., to discuss and solicit comments on the draft “Interagency Risk Assessment—Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens”, which the agencies had published on May 13. Agency officials said the draft quantitative risk assessment (QRA) “provides… 1) a science-based decision support tool 2) to evaluate the effectiveness of retail practices and interventions to reduce or prevent listeriosis 3) associated with the consumption of RTE foods 4) commonly prepared and sold in the delicatessen of a retail food store. It also examines how changes in current retail practices might further mitigate the predicted risk of listeriosis from these RTE foods.” The agencies are accepting public comments on the draft QRA through July 12, 2013. L. monocytogenes in RTE foods purchased at retail grocery stores showed a seven-fold higher incidence and level of L. monocytogenes in deli meats sliced and served in retail delis compared to those sliced and packaged in manufacturing plants.” One need only observe a supermarket deli on a busy Saturday morning to see a few possible reasons for that higher incidence: any given product may be handled by several employees during a shift, and each slicer is used for many different products. In the best-case scenario, limited segregation of products may occur if department policy dictates using one slicer only for cheese and another slicer solely for meat. Other variables include employee hygiene and the temperature and cleanliness of the deli case. So what’s a supplier to do? “There’s no way for us — or any supplier — to assure product safety once our product reaches the supermarket deli case,” explains Ronald Tew, vice president of operations for Baltimore-based Deli Brands of America. “We simply have to make sure that we’re providing the safest possible product to begin with.” A family-owned, 80-year-old company, Deli Brands of America provides private-label deli meats and value-added prepared entrees to supermarket chains nationwide (with an emphasis on the East Coast). Tew says Deli Brands is known for “doing [flavor profile] customization and for supplying safe, wholesome product.” He adds, “By doing those things consistently, you get a reputation in the industry. As a result, we have a lot of long-term customers that we’ve kept for at least 10 years.” Even so, Tew and Deli Brands President Jeff Saval are well aware that they must continue to offer “the safest possible product” to maintain their reputation and customer loyalty. Toward that end, the company uses a double-barreled approach to control bacteria in their deli meats. After the meat is cooked, finished products are then treated externally with a Listeria-specific bacteriophage product called Listex, in a carrier solution of sodium lactate and sodium diacetate, chemicals that inhibit the growth of multiple pathogens. Tew recalls that when USDA issued the final rule [9 CFR Part 430: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products; Final Rule] in 2003, “we anticipated that our customers would demand that we use a treatment in the Alternative 1 category. However, few customers even raised the issue and only one chain asked us to use a treatment ‘at least in the Alternative 2 category’ but not necessarily an Alternative 1 treatment.” To comply with the regulation, Deli Brands initially used lauric arginate and a smoke derivative, but that created “issues with our process,” Tew says. Next the company tried injecting sodium lactate and sodium diacetate into the meat products, but that caused flavor issues and increased processing costs substantially. Then, when USDA approved Listex as a processing aid in May of 2011, Tew and his colleagues were able to resolve their dilemma. “We started using Listex about 18 months ago on all of our whole-muscle cooked products,” Tew says. “We found that by using Listex as a surface treatment with sodium lactate and sodium diacetate in the carrier solution, we improved our products’ flavor profile, reduced our processing costs, and significantly increased our shelf life — to as long as 70 days. And because it’s a processing aid, Listex does not have to be listed in ingredient statements, which means we didn’t have to change our product labeling.” Developed by Micreos Food Safety, Wageningen, The Netherlands, Listex is a culture of bacteriophages (or phages for short) that effectively eliminate Listeria monocytogenes. As phages occur in nature, are specific to their target bacterial species, do not affect desirable bacteria in foods or in the human gastrointestinal tract, and do not alter the finished product’s organoleptic properties (such as taste, texture and color), Listex is listed by the Organic Material Review Institute, meaning it can be used in processing of natural and organic foods. Listex is one of the most cost-effective interventions on the market, says Dirk de Meester, Micreos’ business development director. Listeria monocytogenes is one of the most important threats to food safety, due to its high mortality rate (over 20 percent) and the risk it poses to pregnant women. This insidious species can grow at refrigeration temperatures, and as the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) notes in its Listeria Action Plan for Retail Delis, published in November 2012, “Retail delis provide an ideal environment for Listeria due to the types of foods — RTE meats, cheeses, and salads — the moist environment, and temperatures that support growth of Listeria.” FMI’s Listeria Action Plan provides guidance including Standard Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOPs) for slicers in retail delis, and the final version of the USDA/FDA” Interagency Risk Assessment — Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens” will undoubtedly recommend additional steps. In the meantime, some retailers seem to be opting for a simpler path — avoiding the use of slicers. Perhaps in recognition of the food safety and personnel safety challenges associated with having employees slice deli meats on demand, more of Deli Brands’ retail customers have begun purchasing presliced bulk product rather than whole-muscle items. Tew says Deli Brands’ management sees this as an emerging trend; they predict that many retail chains will move away from slicing product to order and will display more small portions on the side of the deli counter. _____ The Food Safety Website series on processing aids is sponsored by Micreos. Heidi Parsons is a writer, editor, and content manager for print and online media. During her 15+ years in business-to-business publishing, she has covered food processing, institutional foodservice, packaging, pharmaceuticals, and police canine handling. ]]> https://www.storkxx.com/2013/06/antimicrobial-umbrella-helps-deli-supplier-walk-food-safety-tightrope/feed/ 0