Living Systems


Food Safety Assurance

Technical Applications

Summary

Ensuring food safety to the best extent possible is an on- going challenge because the route from field or catch to table is a long one with many handlers involved in processing, storage and transportation.

Characteristics

No technology for processing food is universally protective. Pasteurization is quite effective but cannot be applied to solid foods. The increase in food poisoning from bacteria, viruses, and parasites is escalating in almost every country that collects statistics on the subject. Explanations for this increase have ranged from improved reporting and detection, to increased demands for meat and animal products. Attempts to halt these trends in food poisoning occurences have focused on the re-establishment of surveillance systems and attempting to require new testing and standards on the food industry. A system of checks known as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, initially devised by NASA in the late 1960Ôs will be required by European Union directive by December 1995. The application of advanced technologies to monitor food quality and detect bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical contaminants is still quite limited in the processing/production environment. While techniques including flow cytometry, immuno-assays, and DNA- hybridization including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) have demonstrated capabilities in the laboratory, it is not currently economic to deploy them in the large volume production environment in today's food processing plants. These tecnologies all offer promise for improved microbial quality assurance and drug or residue detection, but different areas of the food industry such as highly processed foods, fermented foods, and foods of animal origin will require different approaches.