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Addressing Microbiological Hazards For Food Safety

Posted May 23, 2022
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While we can all agree on the importance of food safety, few understand that it is a scientific discipline that draws from a wide range of academic fields that including chemistry; microbiology; and engineering. It aims to address all hazards – whether chronic or acute, that may make food injurious to the health of the consumer and lays out a systemic approach to hygiene and lability that covers every facet of the global food industry. Food safety is of such paramount importance that any breach can break a brand or a company. The impact of simply serving awful-tasting food is not even comparable to the fallout of a food safety incident.

In this day and age, where markets are becoming increasingly globalized and the population continues to grow, the food supply chain will only increase in scale and complexity. In view of these megatrends influencing the production and distribution of food, food control, and food safety compliance have never been more salient. And as listed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food control encompasses the following main aspects:

  • Microbiological hazards
  • Pesticide residues
  • Misuse of food additives
  • Chemical contaminants, including biological toxins
  • Adulteration

Each of the above hazards is as important and would deserve a mention of its own. For the rest of this article, the focus will be on microbiological hazards. In dealing with microbiological hazards, food manufacturers typically either resort to the use of preservatives, or heat and pressure treatments such as canning; retort; pasteurization, or a combination of both.

Despite being valued for decades for its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, controversies revolving about the toxicology of some of the synthetic preservatives continues to beleaguer its use. It comes as no surprise that food regulators across the globe have enforced a usage limit on synthetic ingredients such as potassium sorbate and calcium propionate in food applications. This stymies the use of preservatives to achieve the shelf life targets of food manufacturers. In most countries, food additives such as potassium sorbate have to be declared by giving their function followed by either the specific name or the INS (International Numbering System) number of the substance used – something that recent clean label trends have successfully stigmatized, further spurning potential consumers.

At the heart of clean labeling, is the use of ingredients that appear wholesome and natural, something that synthetic ingredients would not be able to achieve.

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MICROBIOLOGICAL HAZARDS IN PROCESSED MEAT

Bacteria are responsible for most foodborne illnesses and are termed pathogens. The source of these pathogens stems from fecal matters shed by animals, which may be transferred to carcasses during the slaughtering process. Further inadvertent contamination also happens via inadequate processing procedures and equipment, handlers, and the environment.

Recognizing that some base level of bacteria will be present in meat, it is important to keep the overall count low to minimize concerns about pathogens and safeguard food safety. Restricting the growth of pathogens is key to guarding against microbiological hazards in meat.

KEMIN has BactoCEASE™ NV to offer as an antimicrobial product against pathogens and it allows clean labeling. Whether it is used as a sole preservative or in conjunction with other synthetic preservatives, BactoCEASE™ NV can help delay microbial growth and thereby extend the shelf life of food.

The graph below is a shelf life study on the total plate count (TPC) result comparing vacuum-packed chicken meatballs treated with 1% BactoCEASE™ NV (BCNV), and 0.1% potassium sorbate (PS) with an additional 0.5% BactoCEASE™ NV (BCNV). Potassium sorbate at 0.1% dosage is the maximum limit in processed meat, subject to the regulatory requirements of respective geographical regions.

Figure 1 TPC of chicken meatballs stored under fluctuating chilled temperature over 60 days

Figure 1: TPC of chicken meatballs stored under fluctuating chilled temperature over 60 days

From the graph, both treated chicken meatballs have generally low and stable TPC over the 60 days chilled storage period. It can be inferred that the chicken meatballs could potentially be stored for more than 60 days, under fluctuating chilled temperature, even without further processing treatments such as pasteurization.

Between the two antimicrobial treatments, the chicken meatball containing 0.1% potassium sorbate and 0.5% BactoCEASE™ NV, exhibited a TPC trendline like the chicken meatball with 1% BactoCEASE™ NV. Thus, with half the dosage of BactoCEASE™ NV, similar control of TPC can still be achieved when used in conjunction with synthetic preservatives like potassium sorbate.

By combining the use of BactoCEASE™ NV together with potassium sorbate, the protection against microbial growth would exceed the performance of using only synthetic preservatives. However, a clean label effort would not be possible due to the presence of potassium sorbate.

Manufacturers hesitant about completely switching away from their existing use of synthetic preservatives due to concerns over the impact on recipes, or existing manufacturing processes, can also take advantage of this dual application which could be commercially beneficial while overcoming regulatory limitations.

EXPLORE FURTHER WITH KEMIN

Food safety is not to be compromised. While the use of synthetic preservatives to curb microbiological hazards is often a convenient method, its usage has several disadvantages. This includes strict regulatory limits on usage that prevent manufacturers from pushing the boundaries on achievable shelf life. These can be circumvented using BactoCEASE™ NV, a clean label antimicrobial solution not bounded by regulatory limits. Explore further today, with KEMIN.

Written by Frauline Joseph, Technical Service Manager, Kemin Food Technologies Asia.

Technical Service Manager, Frauline specializes in processed meat applications. Having graduated from Massey University with a Bachelor of Food Technology (Honours), her 10 years of research and development experience includes creative product development and ingredient application in a wide range of food products. She has provided technical and shelf-life solutions for B2B and B2C projects, working with renowned food brands and QSR customers.