This month in food safety news: a long-lasting outbreak is finally over, researchers explore a possible method for identifying the source of outbreaks, and one of the industry’s largest events has announced its agenda.
Romaine Remains a Mystery
The recent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that started in 2017 has been declared over by multiple governmental organizations, including the CDC and FDA, but unfortunately, the source of the problem has not yet been discovered. Of the 474 reported cases in the U.S., there were six deaths, and about half required hospitalization due to illness.
Romaine lettuce is now safe to eat again, regardless of where it comes from, but the mystery behind the outbreak remains. Voluntary industry groups, namely the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement programs in California and Arizona, are committed to identifying the source of the outbreak so that it doesn’t happen again. In addition to evaluating the various water sources of environmental runoff, irrigation, and harvest-use, the organizations are revamping food safety practices.
The changes that will be made to standards and procedures are requirements for thousands of farms that produce the majority (more than 90 percent) of the leafy greens grown in the U.S. In the meantime, food processors should continue to take a preventive approach to keeping E. coli 157:H7 out of the food supply.
New Technology on the Horizon
One reason it’s increasingly difficult to determine the source of an outbreak is that there are so many potential causes that it’s not always possible to isolate a single one. According to an expert panel, whole genome sequencing could be a solution.
A European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel evaluated the technology as a possible method for investigating outbreaks, attributing sources of contamination and assessing risk of foodborne pathogens. The ability to match clinical strains to contaminated food products would allow researchers to link patients to specific outbreaks, regardless of the type of food or location where it was consumed. Though still in its infancy, the use of whole genome sequencing could accelerate the identification of the source of outbreaks and reduce related illnesses. It’s unclear how this research will develop, but it’s an area to watch if you work in the food processing industry.
Food Safety Summit Is Scheduled
The 22nd annual Food Safety Summit has been scheduled for May 4-7 in Rosemont, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. This year’s summit will center on developing public trust through educational topics, such as “food fraud, co-packers, allergens, cannabis, labeling, Hepatitis A, traceability, FSMA and much more.”
With five certification courses available, this is an event that can help food safety professionals become more educated in their fields and advance their careers. One highlight is sure to be the interactive session titled “Play to Win – Food Safety 5K Competition.” This four-hour training event will include hands-on simulations and cross-contamination scenarios addressing allergens, foreign materials, spoilage, and pathogens.
Other presentations during the summit will cover topics such as environmental sampling, consumer-focused safety, and a Town Hall with representatives from multiple food safety agencies. Although Decon7 will not have a booth in the exhibit hall, representatives will be present at the summit, so get in touch if you’d like to meet up.
Stay on the Leading Edge
When it comes to food safety, most companies want to stay out of the news. Staying on top of the latest industry news and product developments can help keep you on the leading edge of food safety. Implementing daily sanitation protocols can help prevent the growth and spread of bacteria and ultimately protect your brand’s reputation. To stay proactive, read The Busy FSQA Manager’s Guide to Proactive Plant Sanitation to learn more about how to cost-effectively and efficiently prevent bacterial contamination in your facility. If you’re curious about how incorporating D7 into your sanitation plan can help you keep bacteria at bay, contact us today for a free consultation.