AFFI considers current identification methods for public health, regulatory policy

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September is Food Safety Education Month and, in recognition, Frozen Food Institute of America (AFFI) and International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) hosts virtual. Food Safety ForumThey will bring together research experts, industry experts and food safety policy leaders from around the world to discuss emerging issues related to non-foodborne pathogens.

Enteric viruses such as hepatitis A, norovirus, and protozoan parasites such as Cyclospora and Cryptosporidium are foodborne pathogens that are associated with various types of food and have been implicated in outbreaks. Concerns about these pathogens have called for regular product testing and monitoring along the food supply chain. However, the identification of these pathogens has several limitations.

Speakers at the Food Safety Forum will discuss technical challenges and regulatory questions related to the detection and interpretation of results for these pathogens.

Excerpts from interviews with IFPA’s Jennifer McEntire, Chief Food Safety and Control Officer, and AFFI’s Sanjay Gummalla, Scientific Senior Vice President, discuss the importance of the forum and its scientific discussions from a food safety and public health perspective.

Question: Why is the Food Safety Forum addressing non-cultivable foodborne pathogens and why are AFFI and IFPA encouraging industry, government and academia engagement?

McEntire (IFPA): Although these pathogens are of increasing concern in food, they present distinct identification issues not seen with bacterial pathogens. This platform differentiates between bacterial and non-bacterial pathogens such as hepatitis A, norovirus and cyclospora. For example, they cannot be propagated by pre-enrichment, selective enrichment or selective plating, which are the gold standards used to identify pathogens such as bacteria. Salmonella Or Listeria. An understanding of this topic is important for all food safety professionals.

.Gumala (AFFI): Unlike most bacterial pathogens in the laboratory, enteric viruses must be isolated from food or the environment by concentration and filtration before a detection method such as PCR can be applied. The forum will help participants better understand these measures and the implications of positive findings and regulatory and public health issues. As the call for inspection of food products increases, all stakeholders need to have an improved understanding of this topic.

. Question: Do these pathogens grow in food? If we can’t grow these pathogens and they won’t grow in food, how do we ensure contamination?

Gumala (AFFI): No, they don’t grow in food and that’s a good thing. But since these pathogens can’t grow, the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are we able to identify the same nucleic acid fragment as the contaminant?” That’s what it says. As a suspected bacterial pathogen coli Or Listeria monocytogenes It is possible to grow it in the laboratory to ensure its existence and survival, there is no such possibility of pathogens that do not grow. Instead, we use PCR-based methods to detect SARS-CoV-2 in clinical settings.

.McEntire (IFPA): In the FDA’s BAM detection protocol for Cyclospora, the agency lists certain PCR limits, but questions remain about the reliability of PCR testing in foods because these pathogens are distributed in different ways and may occur only in low numbers. This situation leads to a complex and ambiguous regulatory interpretation of “what” to “indicator of contamination” and the detection of nucleic acid determines contamination or adulteration. .

.Question: How is the positivity of a sample currently determined?

.Gumala (AFFI): While a PCR test signal may be positive, evidence of food contamination is not clear. Additionally, confirmatory procedures may support an initial PCR-based positive finding, but none of these methods have been adequately validated, published, or routinely used by the technical community.

McEntire (IFPA): For cyclospora in particular, the organism seems to have a complex life cycle, and is only infectious in one life phase. So even if there is a PCR positive, you can’t tell which part of the body it was, even if it was viable.

Question: What other entities can report an accident?

McEntire (IFPA): Because of the limitations of the test and the uncertainty of what a positive test for the presence of nucleic acid might mean, there are several other factors that must be evaluated when evaluating a potentially positive PCR test result. This may include assessing the presence of worker illness at the farm or facility, assessing facility sanitation, and the use of good manufacturing practices (GMP) or good agricultural practices (GAP). Understanding the overall context of public health risk is important to inform food safety decisions.

.Question: What resources are available to these communities to reduce their exposure to these organisms?

.Gumala (AFFI): AFFI recently launched Enteric Virus Control Specialist. Certificate program In collaboration with the International Food Protection Training Institute. This includes courses that explain best practices in worker health and hygiene, water control, waste management, and cleanliness of tools and equipment. The course was founded by AFFI. Virus control programa free resource available to all manufacturers and processors.

McEntire: IFPA and AFFI are working closely with FDA to support industry prevention strategies for specific product-risk pairs, including berry and hepatitis A, and we will share any new knowledge or insights we gain. For Cyclospora, we have Technical notice Free for industrial use. In reality, however, we need to understand more about this organism and its routes of contamination. We don’t want the industry to waste resources implementing programs that don’t make an impact.

Question: Why are food safety professionals interested in learning more about foodborne pathogens that cannot be cultivated?

Gumala (AFFI): We are at the crossroad of placing significant examples in our approach, classifying “pollution indicators”, “adultery” and “public health risk” with uncultivable pathogens. It is important that all stakeholders in the food safety community understand the limitations in methods, how we assess contamination, and the impact of regulatory enforcement and public health. We are excited to host the Food Safety Forum and drive scientific awareness, debate and understanding of this challenging topic. We welcome food industry professionals to join us on September 21, 2022 at 11 am Eastern.

This information was contributed by AFFI. See for more information www.affi.org/food-safety-forum.

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