Wiping out pathogens

by Bryan Salvage
Senior Editor
Various anti-pathogen technologies used during rinse and chill cycles have a dramatic impact on improving food safety.
True, the war against pathogens is a never-ending process. But the meat and poultry industry is racking up impressive victories in reducing harmful bacteria on its products — particularly in recent years.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data provided by the American Meat Institute (AMI) indicates:
- Between 2002 and 2003, E. coli O157:H7 infections declined 36 percent, the largest decline ever.
- Since 1996, E. coli O157:H7 dropped 42 percent; Campylobacter illnesses declined 28 percent; Salmonella illnesses dropped by 17 percent; and Yersinia illnesses decreased by 49 percent.
These impressive results are attributed to the following:
- Changes in cattle-feeding practices that reduce bacteria in live animals
- Incorporating enhanced aggressive microbiological sampling and testing programs
- New ingredients added to some ready-to-eat meat and poultry products that prevent bacteria growth
- New principles of sanitary design in plants producing ready-to-eat meat and poultry that help to better sanitize and destroy bacteria in the environment, and
- Employing anti-pathogen technologies
Food-safety weapons
Interventions applied prior to, during, or immediately following rinse-and-chill cycles during packing play a major role in reducing harmful bacteria. Ecolab Inc.’s food and beverage division, St. Paul, MN, offers two products specifically for rinse and chill applications. Inspexx 200 is used as a carcass-wash product that can be applied to beef and pork. This product has proven anti-microbial efficacy against E. coli O157: H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella typhimurium.
"This is a mixed peroxyacid product," says Roger Tippett, Ecolab senior product development program leader for food, meat, and poultry. "It can be applied at a number of places in the process including as a final rinse prior to entering the Hot Box, in the cooler sprays, and also on cold carcasses as they exit the cooler prior to fabrication. It is also approved for application onto parts and trim."
Inspexx 100 is applied to chicken and turkey carcasses. It has proven anti-microbial efficacy against Salmonella typhimurium, Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli O157:H7.
"We have two applications for this product," Tippett says. "The first one is in an immersion chill application. The second is a spray-wash application." The Inspexx 100 is also in trials under a USDA protocol seeking interim approval for online reprocessing.
"These products are effective against many key pathogens and also reduce bacteria that may cause product spoilage or decay," says Keith Johnson, meat and poultry marketing manager, food and beverage division, Ecolab. "And we have a low reactivity with organic materials. That’s one of the benefits Inspexx provides to make consistent dosage and control easier."
In looking to incorporate intervention technologies, packers must find out the efficacy of the intervention product and overall costs in implementing an intervention into a plant.
"In addition to chemical costs are labor costs and the amount of wastewater used as part of the intervention," Tippett says.
Johnson also advises looking at environmental impacts. "Our antimicrobial agents do not persist in the environment," he explains. "Breakdown products, consisting of water, oxygen, acetic acid, and octanoic, are benign."
Sanova ®, an anti-microbial process to safely and effectively decontaminate meat and poultry surfaces from Alcide Corp., Redmond, WA, has demonstrated effectiveness against Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter, and other pathogens without affecting taste or other food quality.
"It’s very fast-acting and a potent anti-microbial that is broadly approved for use on poultry, red meat, ready-to-eat products, fruits, and vegetables," says John Richards, president of Alcide. "On poultry or red meat, Sanova can be used on pre- or post-chill. Most recently, we began using Sanova on [beef] parts and trim immediately prior to grind in hamburger plants. We have three or four plants using the product in this manner."
Alcide Corp. was expected to merge with Ecolab by the end of July 2004. Maverick Ranch Natural Meats, Denver, CO, is a Sanova pioneer.
"Sanova was the very first USDA-approved anti-microbial treatment for trimmings for a further-processing plant," says Rex Moore, president, Maverick Ranch. "We became the first beef company in the United States to use Sanova for ground beef going into grocery stores."
Since January 2004, a Sanova carcass wash has been used in Maverick’s sister company Colorado Meat Packers’ Denver-based plant.
"We use it as a sub-primal wash for our ninety-six-percent lean grinder-ready product," Moore says. "We are just opening up a chicken plant [in Denver] for our air-chilled natural free-range chickens. I use Sanova as a rinse on a post-chill basis."
Maverick is also positioned as the only company in the United States to treat its fully cooked ham after skinning before the grinder step.
"I’m now starting to achieve the same effectiveness kill rates as irradiation," Moore says.
Designed for on-line processing
Zep Manufacturing Co., Atlanta, GA, offers ZATS (Zep anti-microbial Treatment System). developed for use in on-line processing/reprocessing of pre-chilled poultry carcasses that are accidentally contaminated with digestive tract contents during evisceration.
"ZATS applies a non-atomized flow of aqueous chlorine dioxide solution in a counter-current configuration," relays company literature. "The high-volume flow of the solution helps to reduce fecal and ingesta-contaminants and the microbial load on the carcasses is significantly lowered; thereby, enhancing product safety and quality."
Unlike other systems, the treatment solution may be reused in the plant, such as water make-up for the scalders, resulting in effective water usage.
As anti-pathogen technology evolves, expect more of such interventions to become part of the rinse and chill arsenal.
Technology providers contributing to these articles include:
- Alcide Corp., phone (425) 882-2555, fax (425) 861-0173, e-mail jrichards@alcide.com, or visit www.alcide.com
- Ecolab Inc., food and beverage division, phone (651) 293-2233 or (800) 392-3392, fax (651-293-2260, or visit www.ecolab.com
- MPSC, phone (651) 222-3647, or visit www.mpscinc.com
- Zep Manufacturing Co., phone (877) I BUY ZEP or visit www.zep.comClean from the inside out
Meat Processing Services Corp. Inc. (MPSC), St. Paul, MN, offers a process called Rinse & Chill™ that improves sanitation plus meat quality, palatability, and appearance while reducing cholesterol, the company relays. This pre-rigor, enhanced-bleeding technique rinses a chilled isotonic solution containing dilute concentrations of approved common substrates (sugars and salts) through the cardiovascular system of a carcass immediately following stunning.
The globally patented, government-approved process immediately reduces pH and internal temperature (as much as 10Þ F colder than normal when entering a cooler), and it cleans out undesirable blood more effectively than traditional methods, the company adds.
This technology was introduced about five years ago in Australia and in 2001 in the United States, reports Warner Ide, MPSC president, who adds that more than 1 million head of cattle have been subjected to the technology and successfully commercialized during the past five years.
"We are continually working on the technology to improve it, refine it, and it is a work in progress," Ide says. "It absolutely does not slow the slaughter process down. If it did, we wouldn’t be in business."
Rinse & Chill has recently proven to have a unique intervention affect specifically targeted to E. coli, Ide says.
"This is true whether it is carcass beef, vacuum-packaged beef, or beef in a retail meat case," he adds. "Data was presented last year in Trends in Food Protection detailing the affect in carcasses on E. coli and coliform bacteria." Additional data has been submitted for publication on finished product showing that in challenge studies where pathogens are intentionally inoculated into ground beef produced from the technology substantial differences are present — including a 4.5 log of Salmonella rendered non-recoverable between nine and twelve days. "We think the reason for that has to do with blood removal and the rapid pH drop in the product," Ide concludes.
Manning Beef/Bropack Beef, Los Angeles, CA, began using the Rinse & Chill process just three weeks before being interviewed for this article. The company plans to get treated product into the retail market within the next several months.
"More than half of our production is natural Choice calf-fed steers," says Andy Broberg, chief executive officer. "We go to a lot of independent markets, and we go to a few small chain stores such as Gelson’s Markets — a higher-end grocery store. This technology is used primarily on our Manning’s Natural Beef, which comes mostly in Choice as well as Select."
Broberg began testing the Rinse & Chill process several years ago.
"I was interested in bacteria reductions in E. coli, Salmonella, and in improving cleanliness of the beef after it’s rinsed," Broberg says. "The process also tenderizes the beef — it’s juicier and lasts longer in the meat case. I tested this more than two years before I even considered using it. I’m impressed with the results, and I have pretty high expectations for this product in the future."