In the past year, there were over 200 documented recalls within the US food industry. Items that have been subject to recall are diverse, including vegetables and fresh produce, meat and fish, refrigerated foods, cultured and frozen dairy. While the recall descriptions vary per product, most recalls are due to pathogenic bacteria contamination, including Salmonella and L. monocytogenes.
The main reason for a food recall is the pathogen contamination of products. Other reasons include undeclared ingredients (egg, milk, nuts), choking hazards, and even plastic contamination within the food.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, foodborne illnesses affect millions of Americans every year, leaving hundreds of thousands hospitalized and causing thousands of deaths. On the other hand, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that foodborne illnesses cost more than $15.6 billion each year.
Food and consumer safety are of the highest importance to the US government. In 2019, the government passed The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), giving the FDA the power to regulate how food is grown, harvested, and processed. The Act provides guidelines on food safety and quality for food manufacturers and producers to prevent foodborne illnesses rather than respond to them.
In addition, food recalls are highly detrimental to manufacturers. Product recalls affect brand and product image, brand equity and potentially have a long-term effect on the company's reputation and consumer's trust in the company's products. It can break the trust a customer has in purchasing from that company, which can harm sales of current products and can negatively affect any future product launches.
Considering the damaging effects foodborne illnesses have on public health and the adverse outcomes of food recall for food companies, it is easy to understand why food safety should be a top priority to food manufacturers.
Despite the advances in safety measures and preventative controls in the food manufacturing and supply chain, we are still witnessing food recalls due to pathogenic contamination. Over the past several years, there has been an increased focus on health and wellness and food safety. Recent research has indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has further solidified the consumer focus on their health and well-being, which directly affects their purchase intentions and eating choices. Consumers desire minimally processed, clean-label, wholesome foods that are safe to eat and good for their health.
The food and beverage industry continues to seek ingredient solutions and new technologies to offer adequate food protection and safety to consumers while meeting the clean label requirements.
"Food recalls due to foodborne illness are dangerous for the consumer and costly for the food companies. They can be prevented. Many companies resort to hurdle technology to combat food pathogens and keep products safe," -- says Gil Bakal, Managing Director at A&B Ingredients.
The hurdle technology is a method of ensuring the safety of foods. It involves a number of milder preservation factors to control the growth of pathogens, making the food safe for consumption and extending its shelf life.
Hurdle technology is not a new concept. Manufacturers and formulators have to consider pH, water activity, cooking, freezing, and the use of preservatives as part of the hurdle process. Each one of these factors can be used individually or in combination to control the safety of the food products.
A&B Ingredients manufactures CytoGUARD Lauric Arginate, a broad-spectrum antimicrobial. It is an important hurdle step in the control of pathogens in ready-to-eat and fresh meat, seafood, and poultry. It also has potential when used as a surface treatment on vegetables and fruit. "Lauric Arginate is a cationic surfactant and when used as a surface treatment can provide an initial 'kill step'. Some may consider LAE to be similar to 'cold pasteurization', where it has the potential to produce 2 to 3 Log reduction of microbial load including pathogens such as Listeria, E. coli, and Salmonella," explains Joe O'Neill, VP of Sales and Business Development at A&B Ingredients.
Recent findings have indicated that cells not killed by Lauric Arginate, are damaged and more susceptible to other inhibitors or preservatives. These damaged cells were also vulnerable to a physical, deep freeze treatment. One meat study referenced the benefit of multiple hurdles by using CytoGUARD Lauric Arginate with a bacteriostatic agent followed by a freezing step prior to refrigeration. The cells never recovered. The final benefit was the initial reduction in bacterial load (including Listeria) followed by an extended inhibition of microbial growth, which resulted in an extended shelf life of up to 90 days.
A&B Ingredients has been advocating the use of a bactericidal and bacteriostatic hurdle technology to address the safety, quality, and freshness of foods. "This specialty ingredient combination is a proven hurdle technology. It has been widely adopted and used as a surface treatment in hot dogs and meats, fish and poultry, to control pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli as well as spoilage organisms," says O'Neill. "This technology is a useful intervention in the control of pathogens in various food applications to protect the consumer. Scientists also have demonstrated that Lauric Arginate shows promise for use in dairy applications, like cheese, to control the growth of Listeria monocytogenes and keep the food products safe for consumption."
"Our CytoGUARD portfolio offers a measure of food safety and protection and helps keep foods safe and fresh," explains O'Neill.
CytoGUARD Lauric Arginate (LAE) is a cationic surfactant and is highly effective at reducing pathogenic and spoilage organisms in food by disrupting the cell membrane structure of pathogenic bacteria. It is a broad-spectrum, food-grade antimicrobial.
CytoGUARD LA is often used in combination with bacteriostatic agents and other microbial inhibitors. This combination effectively extends the shelf life, food safety, and freshness of the foods.
LAE is a cost-effective food safety solution. It can be used at very low use levels and is effective between 50 to 200 ppm. Most importantly, it does not affect the organoleptic properties of food, flavor, or taste.
The food industry is still facing challenges with food safety throughout the manufacturing and supply chain. A&B Ingredients offers clean label solutions from nature to address food safety, food spoilage, and quality issues naturally.