Salmonellosis — the infection caused by Salmonella bacteria — is the most common food-borne bacterial disease in the world. It is estimated to cause one million foodborne illnesses every year in the United States, accounting for 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths. There are at least 360,000 illnesses every year attributed to regulated products. According to foodsafety.gov, the bacteria cause more than one million illnesses every year, leading to $365 million in direct medical costs. Furthermore, Salmonella infections have not declined in the past 15 years.
As menacing as the bacteria is for public safety, in can pose just as much of a threat to the well-being of a food production facility. Chipotle is still trying to regain its financial footing after outbreaks of Salmonella and other viruses earlier this year, which were partly attributed to cross-contamination in central kitchens that prepared salsas and more.
Salmonella, obviously, stems from raw and undercooked eggs, poultry and meat, meaning cross-contamination is the biggest threat to commissaries and central kitchens. Cross-contamination prevention is based on a detailed risk assessment that works hand-in-hand with programs such as GMPs, HACCP and other prerequisites. Monitoring it, then, is a means of assessing if cross-contamination is like to happen, or has happened already.
“Cross-contamination is the main hazard we want to prevent in the food industry, and develop whole food safety management systems to ensure the risk is eliminated,” says Elina Zerva, global manager, food safety services and innovation, ABI International.
Some companies also sell products to cut down on the risk of Salmonella when dealing with uncooked meats and other at-risk products.
Micreos Food Safety, a developer of phage-based anti-bacterial agents, offers Salmonelex as a solution for food production facilities. The product is aimed at the prevention of cross contamination and the killing of Salmonella bacteria on the food during processing. The company says it can be used post-slaughter in chill systems or sprayed onto the foods at points of contamination during further processing. The product, and its application, can be integrated easily within the daily routine of the normal production process. It has no organoleptic influence — it doesn’t affect taste, sight, smell or touch — does not dissolve fat and does not react away in the presence of organic matter.
Newly Weds Foods, which manufactures food coating and season systems, among other things, developed DefenStat, which it claims is “the only clean label ingredient for raw meat and poultry that addresses the three systemic failures leading to E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks, in a single intervention product.”
The company says that even with careful handling and storage, mistakes can be made in food preparation, presenting multiple opportunities for cross-contamination. The use of DefenStat in uncooked meat and poultry during the processing phase can deliver an extra layer of defense should proper safeguards not be adhered to further down the product cycle.