content tagged as Food Safety & Defense

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Food fraud or economically motivated adulteration (EMA) is defined as the intentional misrepresentation of the identity or contents of a food ingredient or product for economic gain. It has been estimated that up to 10% of the food supply is affected by fraud, with some of the major targets being dairy ingredients, seafood products, meat and poultry products, olive oil, spices, coffee and tea, and honey. Food fraud can have significant impacts in areas such as food safety, consumer confidence, food quality, brand integrity and business revenue. In order to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food and new food standards established by the Global Food Safety Initiative, the food industry must be prepared to develop food fraud mitigation plans for susceptible food products. The United States Pharmacopeia and other organizations have developed a number of resources to assist the food industry in developing these mitigation plans. This session will begin with a presentation on the topic of food fraud and its effects on the food industry. The current regulatory requirements and standards related to food fraud will be discussed, with a focus on the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Global Food Safety Initiative. The presentation will also provide information on how to comply with these requirements, including currently available resources. Presentations 2 and 3 will be focused on providing examples of specific food commodities that are particularly vulnerable to food fraud: seafood, coffee, and tea. These presentations will examine the specific issues affecting these commodities that make them vulnerable to fraud; the food safety and food quality effects of fraud; commonly used methods for detection of fraud; and how organizations are working to address fraud within these commodities. This symposium will also bring together USP, the leading provider of ingredient standards and Eurofins, the global leader in authenticity testing, to address provide a comprehensive review of the state of food fraud mitigation strategies. Introducing the topic of food fraud, giving background on incidents of food fraud, provide examples on the various types of food fraud and provide guidance on resources which are available to develop a food fraud program. Describing the expectations and requirements from customers through the Global Food Safety Initiative recognized standards, including the documentation requirements for vulnerability assessments and mitigation strategies. We will also review the current capabilities of authenticity testing in detail, including specific analysis types for different products and recommendations on testing strategy for a mitigation plan involving testing.
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is an emerging technology that allows scientists to map the genetic sequence of pathogens and other organisms with such precision that they can distinguish between different strains of a bacterium and even slight variations by geography within the same strain. WGS has proven to be a powerful tool for food manufacturers and regulatory agencies. The technology can be used to determine which illnesses are part of an outbreak and which are not; to determine which ingredient in a multi-ingredient food is responsible for an outbreak; to identify geographic regions from which a contaminated ingredient may have originated; to link illnesses to a processing facility; to link small numbers of illnesses that otherwise might not have been identified as common outbreak; and to identify unlikely routes of contamination. While rapid analysis of WGS data still remains somewhat of a challenge, and may in some situations represent a bottleneck, easy-to-use, high-throughput bioinformatics tools for bacterial WGS data have been developed and are rapidly being improved. The cost of gene sequencing equipment is also continuously declining. With its advantages and decreasing costs, WGS has been integrated into routine foodborne disease surveillance and may replace other technologies such as pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) in the near future

This symposium was organized by the IFT Quality Assurance Division in collaboration with the IFT Food Microbiology Division.
Clostridium botulinum neurotoxins continue to be a threat to the global food supply through natural and possibly intentional routes of contamination. Rapid, sensitive, and specific detection of the most potent neurotoxin known, botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), is of vital concern to prevent cases of the neuroparalytic disease (botulism). The mouse bioassay is considered the gold standard assay because it a positive result in the test requires all four steps of intoxication, internalization by the host through the small intestine, trafficking of the toxin to the target cell via the blood and lymphatic system, translocation into the target neuronal cell and finally, catalytic activity of the toxin's light chain on SNARE proteins to prevent the release of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction. Disadvantages to the mouse bioassay include the ethical concerns of using laboratory animals, the expensive cost, and the time to receive a positive result, which can take up to 4 days for a positive. Functional based assays (e. g. endopeptidase mass spectrometry, cell based and Förster resonance energy transfer) are specific and rely on the biological activity of the botulinum neurotoxin. Immunological and other in vitro assays, such as enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (e. g. DIG-ELISA) cannot discern between active and inactive toxins. This symposium will discuss the current assays used to detect botulinum neurotoxins in food and clinical samples, address their advantages and disadvantages, and highlight the most rapid, sensitive, and specific assays that are being widely adopted to replace existing toxin detection and/or screening methods.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in 1958’s Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&CA) that foods and food ingredients are primarily been consumed for taste, aroma, or nutritive value, or some technical function such as to preserve the finished food, or provide thickening, stabilizing, or other attributes. However, as our scientific understanding of the intricate ways components of food interacts with the myriad numbers of tissue and bodily systems, foods are being formulated to optimize the positive relationship between the human body and the foods we eat, either through genetic modification or through isolation and purification. Plant components, termed phytonutrients, can function as antioxidants in the body, while others can increase endogenously produced antioxidants or can modify the immune, liver, and nervous system. But at what point do statements touting “positive benefits” become claims that must be substantiated by clinical trials? When does the isolation of phytonutrients alter the safety profile such that safety studies need to be conducted on the isolate? And what is the legal standing of the newly isolated phytonutrient: is it still considered a food, or is it now a new food ingredient or, based on the claims, is it a drug?
Technology is changing at a revolutionary pace. Think about how the commoditization of the internet changed the retail and banking sectors. A similar trend is being observed in the world of food traceability. It’s not just that we are collecting more data about our global food system but we are getting smarter about how we leverage technology to get smarter about utilizing the data we collect. Data collected for traceability is helping anticipate issues in food quality and respond more effectively to issues in food safety. IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center has studied and evaluated several novel traceability technologies that show potential, from the use of whole genome sequencing to trace foodborne outbreak pathogens and contamination sources to the use of synthetic DNAs sprayed on packaging to prevent temperature abuse. Lessons learned from other industries can help accelerate the rate of adoption of traceability best practices such as RX360 in the pharmaceutical sector or electronic patient records in the healthcare sector. One exciting technology that is promising the potential to bring our food safety systems into the 21st century is blockchain based on lessons learned from the financial sector.

Blockchain is a transformative technology that could finally enable the traceability and the transparency that the industry has been working toward. This holistic view of information could enable better execution in the supply chain itself to drive improved food safety, better sustainability, reduction of waste and other key benefits. Blockchain isn't a silver bullet, but its unique characteristics as a trusted, shared system of record allow us to solve both the underlying technology problem and the fundamental social problem that have hampered previous efforts. With blockchain we can improve how we digitize and distribute all of the information on the food ecosystem. In addition, we can provide the trust that allows entities to actually participate. By enabling the participation of the entire ecosystem with the creation of a trusted record of the food system, the food ecosystem will be transparent and traceable, and in a way that supports the business interests.

The food system has been changing since the dawn of time, but never more rapidly or dramatically as it has the potential to do so today. Whether we live in Shenzhen, Santiago, Sheffield, or Chicago, we can choose to buy local or enjoy the best products from the best producers anywhere in the world without regard for the season. We go online and get whatever we want to be delivered directly to our door or local store. While this modern food system has resulted in more choice, affordability, and convenience, in some instances, it also has resulted in consumers being far removed from where food comes from and how it’s been produced. As a result, there is a need for even greater collaboration regarding food traceability and transparency solution. Blockchain, as new and emerging technologies, have the potential to enable a new era of end-to-end transparency in the global food system that will further promote responsible actions and behaviors.
The CDC estimates that every year, there are 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to consumption of foods contaminated with pathogens. Therefore, it is necessary to process foods to effectively inactivate these microorganisms to render food safe. Various preservation technologies have been developed and adopted successfully to eliminate or reduce microbial contamination of the food. However, conventional treatments are very highly energy intensive with high capital and operational costs. Most often these processes also result in deterioration of food quality. Therefore, there is a need for alternative processing methods that are simple, cost-effective, have high inactivation efficiencies and yield minimal quality changes. Emerging technologies such as UV light, pulsed light and LED light processing show great promise since they can inactivate the pathogenic microorganisms while preserving the quality of foods.

This session will focus on recent advances in the light-based technologies for microbial decontamination. There has been an increased interest in the applications of light-based technologies such as UV light, pulsed light and LED light for inactivating microorganisms. Typically, these technologies operate in the UV, visible and near-infrared light range. Studies have shown that these technologies can effectively inactivate myriad microorganisms. However, there are several challenges associated with these technologies. The identified speakers are experts in the light-based technologies. They will shed light on the applications and challenges of these technologies. Due to the increased interest in these technologies, a symposium on this topic is highly warranted.

This session is sponsored by Phi Tau Sigma, the honor society of food science and technology.
In recent years, whole genome sequencing has emerged as a powerful food safety tool. The unprecedented resolution of whole genome sequencing allows for highly improved characterization and subtyping of microorganisms over methods such as pulsed field gel electrophoresis. This in turn has helped to improve epidemiological investigations of foodborne illnesses by more quickly and accurately linking clinical isolate whole genome sequence subtypes with those of food and environmental isolates. By providing this faster and more accurate link, foodborne illness outbreaks can be resolved in much more timely manner, which therefore helps reduce the number of foodborne illness cases. Consequently, whole genome sequencing has been adopted as a key tool in the repertoire of regulatory and public health agencies such as the FDA, USDA, and CDC for resolution of foodborne illness outbreak investigations and other applications such as monitoring of antimicrobial resistance.

Yet, although these agencies have begun to use whole genome sequencing in these ways, there is still a need for policy development surrounding the technology. As a result, the use of whole genome sequencing in the food industry has been limited. There are many different applications of the technology that would greatly improve food safety management from different areas of the food industry. For instance, whole genome sequencing can be used to identify possible harborage of a bacterium in a food processing facility. It can also be used to tie together isolates that were involved in a beef slaughter "event day." Other uses of next generation sequencing technology that are not directly applied to whole genome sequencing, such as 16S metagenomics, are also important for investigating sources of spoilage and determining the types of microorganisms present at different stages of the process. Yet, due to uncertainty around the regulatory perspective of the use of the technology, the food industry has been reluctant to widely adopt it as a tool in their food safety management systems.

This symposium will discuss an overview of the current technology that is available for performing whole genome sequencing and the current uses of whole genome sequencing by third party laboratories. This will then be followed up by presentations from the meat and produce industries where the use of whole genome sequencing by the members of these industries will be discussed, along with the concerns that still remain for these industries from a regulatory standpoint. Lastly, the session will be rounded out by a presentation on the legal and regulatory concerns on the use of whole genome sequencing, including information on the current landscape of policy development with regard to the technology.
As WGS becomes more prevalent in surveillance and regulatory compliance operations, and foodborne illness attribution, there are, however, several areas of continued debate surrounding the use of WGS-based tools. These include but are not limited to standardizing methodologies to determine similarity; appropriateness of retrospective linking of illnesses, establishing insanitary manufacturing conditions; and continued need for reliance on epidemiological and consumption evidence. The session will include a panel of speakers representing academia, government, and industry who will share their technical and regulatory perspectives, and the real-world opportunities and challenges related to the growth of WGS in food safety applications.

This panel will discuss the application of a highly advanced and promising tool in our food production system and consider science and risk-based regulatory approaches and policies to drive public health objectives.
The impact of fraud on the food industry is not just the huge economic loss, but also on public confidence in food producers and regulators, as well as the risk of serious public health consequences. Traditional targeted testing on potential adulterants or marker ingredients is widely used in Quality Assurance and Quality Control systems. However, criminals have successfully evaded the QA/QC systems by using new adulterants or adding market ingredients into the matrix. One of the newer tools to combat food fraud is non-targeted methods. Non-targeted methods focus on the overall characteristics of the ingredient itself instead of the adulterants. With the advances of techniques and data analysis, non-targeted methods have been gaining attention from academia and industry. Large food companies, testing laboratories, and instrument manufacturers are implementing their strategies on the non-targeted screening of food and botanical ingredients. However, the methodology is still not widely used for multiple reasons. There is insufficient solid information about the development, validation, and knowledge support of non-targeted methods. Additionally, there is a lack of standardization: the method may be in use, but with inconsistent development.
This symposium session will first introduce the advantages, challenges, and standardization of non-targeted methods for adulteration detection. Then the applications of non-targeted methods using novel techniques and chemometrics to detect and deter adulteration in different food and botanical matrices will be presented. Case studies will include highly susceptible ingredients including milk powders, cheese, olive, and botanical materials.
With FDA’s Preventive Controls for Human Foods (PCHF) under the Food Safety Modernization ACT (FSMA), the food industry has been working hard to meet expectations – reviewing and updating protocols, creating more thoroughly documented processes, and working with suppliers to ensure a robust safety standard throughout the supply chain. From hazard analysis, preventive controls, monitoring, corrective actions verification and validation activities, each area of the food industry, from the ingredient and packaging suppliers through the retailer is affected.

This session starts with a brief analysis of FDA’s boots-on-the-ground experience in enforcing the PCHF rule (Part 117), including FDA 483 findings, FDA field investigator focus and trends as well as a review of recent FDA Preventive Control industry guidance documents and instructions to its field investigative staff. This session will also share FDA Preventive Control investigations from the perspective of the food manufacturer via panelists from large US food processors. It will then explore the FDA enforcement direction versus the food processing industry understandings to identify gaps in perceptions and understandings from both perspectives and propose recommendations on hot to cover these gaps Case study examples will be used to provide insight into actual Form FDA 483 findings to learn more about industry weaknesses and how FDA conducts follow-up enforcement and which enforcement “tools” are being used. This will then identify which industry preparations are working, which will require tweaking to better meet FDA expectations. It will conclude with a discussion on the FDA enforcement of the Foreign Supplier regulation and its impact on foreign food manufacturers.

Food safety and PCHF is everyone’s business, from food manufacturers, shareholders, mainstream and social media to the public and their perception of how companies manage their business and brand. Don’t try to guess where to invest your food safety resources, attend this session to learn directly from both the FDA and food processing industry’s perspectives. Then utilize this information to make adjustments in your food safety program and reduce regulatory risk, all for the purpose of a safer food supply. The speakers will report on the implementation and impact of PCHF as well as provide new applicable and practical information on implementation. Specific industry examples will be given including perspectives from the ice cream ice cream industry.

This is a must-attend session for all industry and government food safety regulators as PCHF touches every food manufacturer in some way and collectively each level of the supply chain has responsibility for delivering on the safety of food in the US marketplace. Lack of compliance and missteps will have huge implications for business, industry, and the public.