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4.3.6 (i), Microbiological and chemical limits

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 03:18 PM


First time caller - long time listener. Love your show... Hi Mom!:bye:

I am the self taught Food Safety Coordinator for a relatively small company. We produce a large variety of blended bake mixes as well as repackaging singular commodities (e.g. beans, corn, wheat, etc.). We are pursuing SQF 2000, level 2 certification.

Element 4.3.6 (i) states that finished product specifications shall include microbiological and chemical limits. This is very difficult for me to wrap my head around. I am not a food scientist and we do not have one on staff. How should I determine what microbiological data to include on a given specification and what those limits should be? If I list allergen content, or lack thereof, expressed as a "less than x ppm" statement would that satisfy the chemical limits requirement?

I look forward to your thoughtful replies,



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Posted 29 October 2010 - 08:29 PM

Dear Dan,

Welcome to the forum! :welcome:

Thks for the kind words, I think. :smile:

You omitted to mention how much self-taught expertise you possess with respect to chemistry and microbiology. Hopefully enough (by now) to evaluate the following introductory comments despite yr professed limitations. If not, you may be going to be required to outlay a fistful of $US. :smile:

Taking the micro.limit – an overview IMO is that yr question is multi-faceted, the answer requiring a mixture of awareness of things like safety of foods / regulatory aspects / realistic microbiological quantitative characteristics.
For example, a pragmatic, though aging, classical exposition of the 3rd item in above list is this reference –

Attached File  microorganisms in foods 2, pt2, 1986 - 20041217_1_1990_25.pdf   812.8KB   101 downloads
(expanded, more recent volumes exist but maybe less data driven)

The 2nd in the list is obviously dependent on yr business, eg production / buyer location, the law, etc.
The 1st in the list requires a book, eg other volumes in the same series as above attachment. Some relatively heavyweight expositions exist on this forum but may be over yr head ?.

There are also threads in this forum which offer potential ready-made solutions / links to yr specific product. These may offer a quick fix but IMO non-understanding of the content can lead to unforeseen risks of claims. Seller beware!

It's an interesting question. :thumbup: I look forward to other / allergenic comments.

Rgds / Charles.C

Kind Regards,




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Posted 30 October 2010 - 11:02 AM

Interesting. I suppose out of your HACCP plan you will have identified what micro / chemical contamination is significant. I'd concentrate on those; no point in specifying for things which aren't likely to be there and / or wouldn't cause a problem if they were IMO.

Do you make retailer "own label" or branded goods? If the former, they will almost certainly have a specification.

I have to admit I faced a similar problem a few years back. I decided after umming and ahhing that as my product was chilled, absence of Listeria and Salmonellae were key and I would probably desire low yeast and mould counts for spoilage prevention but apart from that, I was a bit stuck. I ended up looking at retailer specifications and that was enough of a prompt to make me think about other organisms (S. aureus for example). So it might be a bit back to front but it worked for me.

There may be some legislative guidance on pesticide levels in cereals which might help you as well.

Do you do any heat treatment to your product? Remember if you're not treating the raw materials you won't beat your supplier specifications so once you've decided what you want it's worth checking theirs.

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