Food-borne illness is a serious public health concern around the world. Foods can become contaminated with pathogenic bacteria through exposure to animal manure, contaminated water, inadequate processing controls, cross-contamination, and improper storage or cooking. Production delays, plant shutdowns, food spoilage, brand reputation and product recalls cost money and damage a company’s reputation and negatively effect bottom line. Therefore, cost-effective, easy-to-use, and accurate testing methods are necessary to ensure that the consumer receives nothing but the safest food.
Following the incidents of food-borne illnesses in the food industry, specifically the fresh produce, meat and poultry sectors, there exists an opportunity to address these problems with the use of quality assurance programs and total quality management to prevent these contaminated products from entering the food chain. The most common pathogens that affect human health are as follows:
The most common sources/causes for these pathogens to contaminate our foods are:
Contamination from the water: Irrigation, rinsing, misting, for example
Contamination from the Source. Meat, raw fruit and vegetables, eggs and milk can be contaminated with e-coli, salmonella or other food borne pathogens before they even reach the processing plant.
Surface contact in Pre-Processing.
Problems During Processing.
The importance of food safety testing technologies continues to grow, as companies are increasingly testing their products for GMOs and pesticides in addition to pathogens and extraneous matter contamination. Rapid pathogen testing technologies are in development and are anticipated to lead the market. This technology testing methods will include immunoassays (ELISA), latex agglutination, impedance microbiology, immune-magnetic separation, luminescence and gene probes linked to the polymerase chain reaction. Existing laboratories that most farmers and processors currently use follow some of these methods. We will use conventional laboratory services and adopt rapid pathogen testing technology that is certified under the Association of Certified Chemists(AOAC) when proven in the specific setting and validated through conventional laboratories. USAG Consulting, LLC. offers a food safety consultancy, total quality management program design and implementation and on-site pathogen testing service to minimize the risk of pathogen-contaminated food from entering the food chain. Because of the present technology of testing available and in common use the process will require pre-planning of harvest to test the water and product in the specific field block pre-harvest taking into account testing timelines with current technology available and trusted laboratories. If the daily production requirement is four blocks of 25 acres, each, a farmer will have an additional block prepared and available should one of the original blocks tests positive for a pathogen. USAG intends to use existing laboratories performing these services but will be instrumental in adopting rapid pathogen detection technology to shorten the timelines for identification of pathogens. THE PROBLEM Conventional testing typically takes from 24-72 hours to identify the unacceptable level of pathogens in the food. New technology has been developed which provides these results much faster, in time to make changes to assure the cleanliness of the delivered food. This technology will be deployed when it is integrated and proven in the fresh food farming sector. Waiting days for test sample results can be the difference between keeping consumers safe and allowing contaminated food to enter the food supply chain. In the meantime, we will offer the following services to limit a farmers exposures to food borne pathogens released into the food supply chain. OUR SOLUTION We intend to perform these services and a successful negative result for pathogen presence will be followed by a certification as tested stamp on the final product package. Additionally, we will provide total quality management services, which will include personnel training services and actual periodic unscheduled field location inspections by auditors regionally for farms and/or processing sites. We will design data collection system to be deployed as a written or digital record of inspection of testing of the irrigation water, processing equipment, employee sanitation, processing equipment and packaging. Clients personnel will be trained to perform these functions on an ongoing basis. As described above, USAG will make unannounced visits to be sites to inspect compliance with inspections and documentation maintenance. The service will offer a menu of options to assist a grower, processor or food handler from origin to customer at retail or food-service. These options may be as follows:
Pre-process testing of water and harvest equipment.
Post-harvest testing of cooler and holding sheds, processing equipment, sanitation facilities, picking boxes, storage bins, packaging containers and transport vehicles.
Employee training, periodic statistically accurate sampling and data tracking and collection, written and/or digital.
Products passing all testing can have the “USAG Certified Pathogen Free”, as tested emblazoned on the packaging, bill of lading or invoice, or all, if desired by the farmer and/or producer
A pathogen clean designation will earn the label “USAG Certified As Tested”. Within two years of launching the pathogen free program we propose extending this program into certified organic and certified GMO free product services. Note: One of the advantages of our strategy is that of the Pathogen Free Certification logo/stamp. Consumers have seen recalls after food borne contamination which have led to serious health problems including hospitalization and death. National brands are held in suspicion since the instances of a wholesale declaration of potential contamination as in the recent Romaine lettuce scare by the CDC. Farmers lost millions in revenues despite isolated responsibility and origin of the contaminated product. It is highly conceivable that a product with a “USAG Certified Pathogen Free As Tested” may gain more trust and popularity then a national brand. Many consumers may confuse the USDA organic emblem to mean the product meets all the specifications under USDA protocol, whereas the designation does not certify the product is statistically pathogen free. Under this program, statistical sampling does not guarantee 100% pathogen free product; if our TQM is adopted, the probability of a pathogen in your product is very low. Confidence levels in rapid pathogen detection technology equal or exceed those with conventional testing technology. Regardless, validation of real time field testing will be validated periodically through the producers trusted laboratory. Despite this seed to ship TQM program, the client is responsible for any food borne contamination traced to their farm or processing facility undetected by our TQM program.