Providing guidance on microbial issues for efficient food safety systems

Background

The presence of microbes in food is very much determined by our current way of life. Factors such as climate change, global trade, the usage of new ingredients and consumer behaviours might increasingly have an effect in the microbial populations in food. In this context, a framework that details how to incorporate risk analysis in food safety management systems is increasingly needed.

Objectives

The Task Force aims at facilitating the development of harmonised, science-based approaches to predict and prevent risks. Those approaches may serve as decision-making support for regulators and food industry.
Reviewing the existing knowledge on current and (re-)emerging pathogen behaviour and ecology is also key.
The Task Force will also try to answer the reason why the pathogens persist by detecting and typing methods, as well as reviewing potential control options available.

Impact

This Task Force has published 9 peer reviewed publications and 4 Back & White reports in less than 9 years. It’s significant contribution to the state-of-the-art and it’s research findings are widely spread. The Task Force frequently collaborates with the International Association for Food Protection International (IAFP). Since 2016 they have organised 10 dissemination activities such as the round tables and follow-up webinar, webinars and sessions at the IAFP Annual Meeting and IAFP European symposium.

For more detailed information, please contact Angeliki Stavropoulou at astavropoulou@ilsieurope.be or Toula Aslanidis at taslanidis@ilsieurope.be

Task Force Members

*Scientific Advisor

Expert Groups

Environmental Monitoring in Dry production environments – Are we looking for the right thing(s) / microorganism?

Background & Objectives
Environmental monitoring (EM) program are gaining increasing importance in the context of food safety plans / HACCP programs.
Recent outbreaks have shown the relevance of the environment to ensure the safety of products. However, there are still many uncertainties on how to set up a meaningful program, which would provide early warnings of potential product contamination.

Output
The current activity aims to evaluate existing scientific information on microorganisms of importance and/or concern in dry production environments.
The resulting evaluation would help industry and regulators to focus and set up targeted EM programs depending on their purpose.

Process Validation Study Protocols for Control Measures of Foodborne Pathogens in Foods

Background & Objectives
There are no generic protocols available to guide manufacturers and ensure that all relevant aspects are considered when undertaking a validation. The expert group aims to develop a recommended protocol to control foodborne pathogens in various food matrices.

Output
This publication will help to establish an industry wide standard protocol to validate the critical control points (CCP) in the Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) plan. It will also eliminate or reduce the variation issues among food safety professionals, consultants and third party laboratories to conduct a validation study.
The output would especially support small and medium size businesses that have fewer resources to those tasks available. It would also improve the overall understanding of validation processes in practice.

Expert Group Members

Environmental Monitoring in Dry production environments – Are we looking for the right thing(s) / microorganism?

Process Validation Study Protocols for Control Measures of Foodborne Pathogens in Foods

Publications

The task force organised a webinar designed for industry experts and regulatory agencies on the relevance of end-product testing in food safety management, on November 2015, with the support of IAFP.’

Journal Articles

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Microbiological Food Safety Task Force

FOOD RELATED CONTAMINANTS

This guidance contains a set of approaches to evaluate available data on target pathogens to support the use of validation studies.

In order to ensure safety of food, a number of control measures need to be implemented by the industry. Validation studies are used to provide evidence that the implemented measures are actually capable of controlling the identified hazard.

Potential to limit the occurrence of discrepancies in the information.

By utilising this guidance, actors involved can identify product and process factors that are essential when designing a validation study. They can thus, select the criteria for identifying an appropriate target pathogen or surrogate organism for a food product and process validation.

Designed for a wide range of food-production professionals.

The document helps food manufacturers, processors, and food safety professionals to better understand, plan, and perform validation studies. It offers an overview of the choices and key technical elements of a validation plan, the necessary preparations including assembling the validation team and establishing prerequisite programs, and the elements of a validation report.

Figure from publication MFS 2021
Decision tree to support the decision of when and which validation study approach is most applicable

There is a great interest in the food industry to perform validations in a manner that would be accepted by all parties involved, for example, authorities and customers.

To download this open-access article, please click here.

Scientific abstract Expand

Food manufacturers are required to obtain scientific and technical evidence that a control measure or combination of control measures is capable of reducing a significant hazard to an acceptable level that does not pose a public health risk under normal conditions of distribution and storage. A validation study provides evidence that a control measure is capable of controlling the identified hazard under a worst-case scenario for process and product parameters tested. It also defines the critical parameters that must be controlled, monitored, and verified during processing. This review document is intended as guidance for the food industry to support appropriate validation studies, and aims to limit methodological discrepancies in validation studies that can occur among food safety professionals, consultants, and third-party laboratories. The document describes product and process factors that are essential when designing a validation study, and gives selection criteria for identifying an appropriate target pathogen or surrogate organism for a food product and process validation. Guidance is provided for approaches to evaluate available microbiological data for the target pathogen or surrogate organism in the product type of interest that can serve as part of the weight of evidence to support a validation study. The document intends to help food manufacturers, processors, and food safety professionals to better understand, plan, and perform validation studies by offering an overview of the choices and key technical elements of a validation plan, the necessary preparations including assembling the validation team and establishing prerequisite programs, and the elements of a validation report.

Keywords Expand

critical control points, inactivation, pathogen, preventive control, process validation

Range of nonthermal processing techniques in this study: 10 + the critical parameters for their application and examples. Key factors to consider related to the product 8 They are used to determine process efficiency and whether the target pathogen is capable of growth in product. Food categories for which examples of common pathogens of concern are given 19 + the situations posing increased risk.

Validation studies are necessary even when safe harbors are available to ensure correct implementation of control measures.

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Microbiological Food Safety Task Force

FOOD RELATED CONTAMINANTS

This guidance contains a set of approaches to evaluate available data on target pathogens to support the use of validation studies.

In order to ensure safety of food, a number of control measures need to be implemented by the industry. Validation studies are used to provide evidence that the implemented measures are actually capable of controlling the identified hazard.

Potential to limit the occurrence of discrepancies in the information.

By utilising this guidance, actors involved can identify product and process factors that are essential when designing a validation study. They can thus, select the criteria for identifying an appropriate target pathogen or surrogate organism for a food product and process validation.

Designed for a wide range of food-production professionals.

The document helps food manufacturers, processors, and food safety professionals to better understand, plan, and perform validation studies. It offers an overview of the choices and key technical elements of a validation plan, the necessary preparations including assembling the validation team and establishing prerequisite programs, and the elements of a validation report.

Figure from publication MFS 2021
Decision tree to support the decision of when and which validation study approach is most applicable

There is a great interest in the food industry to perform validations in a manner that would be accepted by all parties involved, for example, authorities and customers.

To download this open-access article, please click here.

Scientific abstract Expand

Food manufacturers are required to obtain scientific and technical evidence that a control measure or combination of control measures is capable of reducing a significant hazard to an acceptable level that does not pose a public health risk under normal conditions of distribution and storage. A validation study provides evidence that a control measure is capable of controlling the identified hazard under a worst-case scenario for process and product parameters tested. It also defines the critical parameters that must be controlled, monitored, and verified during processing. This review document is intended as guidance for the food industry to support appropriate validation studies, and aims to limit methodological discrepancies in validation studies that can occur among food safety professionals, consultants, and third-party laboratories. The document describes product and process factors that are essential when designing a validation study, and gives selection criteria for identifying an appropriate target pathogen or surrogate organism for a food product and process validation. Guidance is provided for approaches to evaluate available microbiological data for the target pathogen or surrogate organism in the product type of interest that can serve as part of the weight of evidence to support a validation study. The document intends to help food manufacturers, processors, and food safety professionals to better understand, plan, and perform validation studies by offering an overview of the choices and key technical elements of a validation plan, the necessary preparations including assembling the validation team and establishing prerequisite programs, and the elements of a validation report.

Keywords Expand

critical control points, inactivation, pathogen, preventive control, process validation

Range of nonthermal processing techniques in this study: 10 + the critical parameters for their application and examples. Key factors to consider related to the product 8 They are used to determine process efficiency and whether the target pathogen is capable of growth in product. Food categories for which examples of common pathogens of concern are given 19 + the situations posing increased risk.

Validation studies are necessary even when safe harbors are available to ensure correct implementation of control measures.

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Webinars

‘‘Foodborne Viruses: Detection, Risk Assessment, and Control Options in Food Processing’’
Watch the Webinar