Fire With Fire: Scientists Using Bacteria to Fight Bad Food

Fire-With-FireDespite advances in food manufacturing, handling and equipment policies, foodborne illness remains a critical concern for producers. According to the CDC, in fact, approximately 1 in 6 — 48 million — Americans are made sick by foodborne diseases each year. Of these, more than 100,000 are hospitalized and 3000 don’t survive. Bottom line? Companies need ways to take the fight to bad food; here’s a look at two of the most promising battle fronts.

Plant Probiotics

At the University of Delaware, researchers are investigating a way to make food-bearing plants more resistant to human-harmful strains of bacteria. Their solution? A kind of “plant probiotic”, a bacterial strain which is completely harmless to humans but helps plants fend off pathogens such as listeria. Known as strain UD1022, the bacteria has demonstrated the ability to reduce the persistence of listeria within three days of application by regulating the behavior of plant stomata — which open and close as plants breathe and give off water. In addition, initial testing suggests that the regulation of stomata could help increase the longevity of plants by causing them to lose less water over time. Ideally, the new bacteria will prevent high-risk bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella from “hiding” in plants, even after they’ve been thoroughly washed.

Laser Focus

In China, meanwhile, scientists at Zhejiang Normal University along with researchers from Umea University in Sweden are looking at another way to detect foodborne pathogens: Lasers. Their work focuses on the risks of using food past “best before” dates and the possibility that food may spoil long before these dates pass, even if the packaging is intact. Why? Because the factors driving bacteria growth vary from package to package and product to product, making “best before” and “use by” dates a law-of-averages guessing game. Their new tool uses optical spectrometry to detect the presence of specific gases given off by bacterial growth — such as carbon dioxide — through glass or plastic packaging. Ideally, the laser solution could help both food manufacturers and medical companies ensure that any bacterial-prone product is safe for consumption before being sold.

Firm Foundation

Of course, custom bacteria and laser tools make little difference if production lines don’t keep up their end of the bargain and introduce foodborne illnesses during the manufacturing or packaging process. As a result, it’s a combination of high-tech advances and solid best practices — such as the installation of dry vapor belt cleaning systems or regular use of heavy-duty vapor steam cleaners — which deliver ideal process results. The end goal? From farm to factory to franchise, food that’s bacteria-free, healthy and high-quality.

Next Steps

Alaskan Food Plant Gets Back to Nature

Alaskan Food Plant Gets Back to NatureWhile most of North America trends toward more processed food with lower nutritional value, the town of Kotzebue, Alaska is headed a different route with its new processing plant: The Siglauq. Taken from the traditional Inupiat word for cold, underground storage systems The Siglauq will allow local hunters to kill and then donate animals for use in the local seniors’ center. It’s a bold plan that will help many older residents retain their subsistence lifestyle—but how do plant operators make sure they’re still meeting federal health standards?

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Safe Food and the People Problem

Safe Food and the People ProblemHow does food get contaminated? It’s easy to point fingers at sub-par technology or handling machines that are past their prime, but according to Food Safety News there’s an even bigger problem: People. Why? Because at some point during the journey from single component to final product all food items are handled in some manner by people—who don’t always follow the rules. The result is food-borne illness, but is it possible to solve the “people problem?”

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Eating Demand: The Global Outlook of Food Processing Machinery

Eating Demand: The Global Outlook of Food Processing MachineryWhat does the future hold for food processing? According to a new study from The Freedonia Group, worldwide demand for this kind of equipment should rise 7.6 percent year-after-year through 2019. Some regional sectors, meanwhile, will see sale slumps over this period—is something in the industry leaving a bad taste?

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No Buy Zone — Color-changing Food Labels Target Pathogens

No Buy Zone — Color-changing Food Labels Target PathogensDoes your food contain E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella? If you live in the United States or Canada, probably not, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans still contract Salmonella each year, resulting in 3000 deaths annually.

What’s more, the total cost of foodborne pathogens in the United States could top $77 billion per year. Now, a team of Canadian researchers are developing new packaging labels that change color when pathogens are present, creating an obvious way to side-step bad food. Is this the future of pathogen control?

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No Contact Order: The Problem With Allergens

No Contact Order: The Problem With AllergensOne in thirteen children in the United States has a food allergy. Some cause mild reactions such as rash or sneezing, while others lead to trouble swallowing, chest pain or death.

As a result, food and beverage production companies and the FDA have become increasingly concerned with product labeling and cross-contamination — is possible to keep allergens away?

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Building a Better Burger? Food Equipment Maker Takes a Bite

Building a Better Burger? Food Equipment Maker Takes a BiteOver the course of an average year, citizens of the United States consume almost 50 billion hamburgers, which works out to three per week, per person across the country. Some of these burgers come from famous fast-food chains and high-end restaurants, but many are also the product of back-yard BBQs and picnics. It’s no surprise, then, that grocery stores now sell a wide variety hamburger meat — everything from top-grade beef cuts to “stuffed” burgers or poultry alternatives. It’s also no surprise that burger eaters are getting pickier: with so many choices available, buyers have no problem passing over frozen hockey pucks for something more appetizing.

Now, a South African company says they can build better burgers using a new meat processing technology — is this what innovation tastes like?

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Automatic Vegetables: Can Technology Improve Produce Packaging?

Automatic Vegetables: Can Technology Improve Produce Packaging? Food waste is a serious problem. According to National Geographic, one-third of food grown in the United States is “lost or wasted” before it ever reaches stove-tops or dinner tables. Some is mislabeled and thrown into landfills; some is improperly packaged, leading to spoilage or contamination. Is there a better way to get food from farm to fork?

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Video Podcast: Ammonia as a Refrigerant in Food Processing and Distribution

After over five years of publishing the Just Venting blog, we noticed the topic “ammonia as a refrigerant” has been hugely popular year after year. So it stands to reason our first video podcast would revolve around this very topic.

Recently, we had a chance to chat with Jeremy Williams, directing manager of the Garden City Ammonia Program (GCAP), which provides hands-on ammonia refrigeration operator training. Jeremy offers critical insight about the history of industrial ammonia use, some key benefits of this naturally-occurring substance and a brief look at ammonia’s future in the industry. Listen in, and discover the benefits of ammonia as a refrigerant.

Overcoming Equipment Sanitation Challenges in the Food/Beverage Industry

In the food and beverage industry, a surface is considered “clean” if it is free of food residue, bad odors and grease. Additionally the surface should be sanitized and free of microorganisms.

Empty bottles on factory conveyor belt (long exposure)An effective cleaning and sanitation program is essential in food and beverage production facilities. If the program is not followed, there is a risk that the food and/or beverages could become contaminated by microorganisms.

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