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Where Do I Find Reliable Scientific Documentation on Microbiology?


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ladytygrr

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 05:29 PM

Hi!

 

:helpplease: I am quickly entering the scientific portion of the whole QA/Food Safety thing and am woefully ill-prepared. 

 

Basic question: where have you guys sourced your scientific documentation back up from?

 

Example: We historically have not reviewed our COAs when the product has come in. It's placed in a binder and off we go. Since I've come on board and started learning, I've come to understand that we should be reviewing the COAs and approving them prior to using the ingredients. 

 

But where do I turn to start learning and understanding what microbial testing is standard or should be expected for each ingredient or type of ingredient? And how can I find a (reliable!!) source for acceptable results of those tests? Some COAs list the standard (??? for lack of a better word) against which they are testing and others don't. Where does this come from? Do you guys have your suppliers put the method and standard of testing on your COAs? How do I learn whether the method and/or standard of testing is appropriate for the ingredient?

 

Also, I understand that we should be having independent testing conducted at regular intervals but it seems we'd need the method and standard of testing from our suppliers to order the same test from an independent lab in order to test apples to apples.......right? If so, then we would HAVE to have the method/standard on the COA so we know how/what to test to. 

 

There should be some basis in historical data in that we've been producing safe product for 5 years using these ingredients from these suppliers without an issue but my understanding is that will only take us so far. 

 

A Google search is fine and dandy but that will often turn out results from NIH, University programs, etc. and I could not follow a document from NIH to save my life.

 

Thank you in advance for your support and insight,

 

~Emily~


Once in a while you get shown the light, in the darkest of places if you look at it right. -Grateful Dead

 


Charles.C

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 03:11 AM

Hi lady tygrr,

 

Basic question: where have you guys sourced your scientific documentation back up from?

 

I deduce yr question is directed to microbiology /  non-trained microbiologists

 

Practical Experience

Textbooks

Specifications

Libraries

Suppliers

Customers

Seminars

Workshops

Internet

School of Hard Knocks, eg Rejected Lots

Time

 

A few suggestions –

 

There are one or two (considered) reputable, well-thumbed micro. data source publications as have been listed in occasional threads on this forum, eg Microorganisms in Foods series is legendary, Canadian IT Micro-Database is supposed to be quite good also (haven’t used it personally).

Individual Product Categories often have their own, (very) experience-based, “Help” Organisations.

Official Regulatory Standards which are sometimes realistic, sometimes from  La La Land.

 

Of course you could always hire a microbiologist and learn OJT.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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BrummyJim

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 08:45 AM

This looks a good place to start: http://www.foodstand...icrobi1306.aspx

 

Book yourself on a basic micro course. Your local food testing lab will probably run one, if not they will know where one is.

 

Check with your food standards agency (FDA?) on their guidelines for the ingredients/products you have.

 

Ensure that your testing lab is ISO17025 accredited. They will help with the interpretation of results, but probably not tell you which tests to use.

 

If possible, tell your suppliers what format you want the CofA to be. What are the results you want to see on it? Use a risk based approach to verifying them: you might want to start by verifying all of them! We test specific parameters for every batch of raw materials that comes in and use positive release for all product going out (test it and release when the results are back).

 

You might not need to be as rigorous as us, and I have worked at places with lesser requirements, but it's always good to set your standards and not have someone else define them for you.



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FSQNNow

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 03:04 PM

http://www.icmsf.org/

http://www.icmsf.org...ions/books.html - Either buy these books of try to google for the titles with addition of "pdf".



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ladytygrr

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 03:17 PM

Thanks, guys. You've given me some good places to start. I've tried reading some of the stuff I've found online but it's so scientific I can't seem to follow it so hopefully some of the resources you've suggested are a little more layperson-friendly.

 

Thanks, again, and have a great weekend!

 

~Emily~


Once in a while you get shown the light, in the darkest of places if you look at it right. -Grateful Dead

 


trubertq

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 03:29 PM

Start with the microbiological criteria for the products you are producing... f ex In Europe the critical limits are set out in (EC) No 2073/2005, I'm fairly sure there is something similar in the USA.

 

You only need to be able to interpret results not carry out testing , so see if you can have a chat with your testing laboratory and see if they would give a you a run down on what you are looking for. I know when I was running the independent lab I had to spend a lot of time explaining micro limits to non-microbiologists, so unless they're very mean they shouldn't have a problem helping you.

 

 

I know lots of Quality Managers who aren't microbiologists and over time gain the expertise to be able to evaluate Certs of Analysis.

 

and remember ... you always have back-up here


I'm entitled to my opinion, even a stopped clock is right twice a day

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ladytygrr

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 04:12 PM

Thanks, Steven Seagull. I mean trubertq.  :giggle:

 

A little secret: we don't have a lab. Not we don't have a lab on premises. We don't have a lab that we currently work with, period. We have not done any independent testing. I was reading through some other threads and someone - Mr. Incognito, I believe - said he trusts his suppliers' COAs as far as he can throw their building and that struck a chord with me.

 

Luckily, independent testing looks to be something that is part of SQF  so I have the force of management's desire for certification to get that started. (Yay!  :happydance: )

 

I didn't realize there were those types of critical limits set forth by the government but I suppose that makes sense. I'll do some digging in the FDA's website. 

 

And I've been on here enough, I'm sure you guys know I'll be asking a bunch of questions of varying degrees of intelligence. :smarty:   :oops:

 

Thank you!

 

~Emily~


Once in a while you get shown the light, in the darkest of places if you look at it right. -Grateful Dead

 


Charles.C

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Posted 11 September 2015 - 09:17 PM

Hi ladytg,

 

A few more comments.

 

The relative availability/reliability of data may of course depend on the product under discussion.

 

IMO interpretative microbiology is sadly not a piece of cake. If you would like a subjective comparison, i suggest Risk Assessment.

 

Again, it may depend on yr actual product but just take a look over some recent microbiological disasters to see the ease of making screw-ups. And the consequences.

 

I agree with BrummyJim, if you have the opportunity to take a relevant course, grab it. I didn't and i still regret it. Textbooks can only go so far and IMEX are often simply wrong, incomplete or out-of-date. Unfortunately, the same comment also applies to some official micro. regulations.

 

The USA  IMO ranks quite high for micro.credibility, maybe partly reflecting the  experiences of a few years back when the "experts" tried to implement  unrealistic internal micro controls on a variety of finished consumer products.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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ladytygrr

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Posted 14 September 2015 - 02:34 PM

Hi ladytg,

 

A few more comments.

 

The relative availability/reliability of data may of course depend on the product under discussion.

 

IMO interpretative microbiology is sadly not a piece of cake. If you would like a subjective comparison, i suggest Risk Assessment.

 

Again, it may depend on yr actual product but just take a look over some recent microbiological disasters to see the ease of making screw-ups. And the consequences.

 

I agree with BrummyJim, if you have the opportunity to take a relevant course, grab it. I didn't and i still regret it. Textbooks can only go so far and IMEX are often simply wrong, incomplete or out-of-date. Unfortunately, the same comment also applies to some official micro. regulations.

 

The USA  IMO ranks quite high for micro.credibility, maybe partly reflecting the  experiences of a few years back when the "experts" tried to implement  unrealistic internal micro controls on a variety of finished consumer products.

Hi Charles,

 

Thank you for the additional information. In my mind, our products/raw ingredients are/should be pretty straightforward but in my time here I've found that it's best to completely disregard what I think in favor of a blank slate since I'm often misinformed. I like the idea of risk assessment but I'm at the point where I still have to learn exactly what microbial risks are associated with our different ingredients. 

 

And getting into these microbiological tests and controls has given me a deeper appreciation for all of the food I've eaten throughout my life that hasn't gotten me sick. So thanks to all of you out there who have been working tirelessly over the years to ensure my food - OUR food - is safe.

 

Happy Monday!


Once in a while you get shown the light, in the darkest of places if you look at it right. -Grateful Dead

 


Bo16

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Posted 16 September 2015 - 01:51 PM

Emily,

Start with the Food Chemical Codex and the FDA BAM online.  In the US, these are the recommended test that your supplier's should be using to approve food ingredients and RTE foods.  Realize that some foods will require special buffer/dilutions for testing.  Upper limits will depend on the use of the food/ingredient and if the product has a "kill" step in the production, also the Risk Assessment for the product/ingredient, and to make matters more confusing.... also the target consumer. 

We always aim to keep micro to the minimum, No tolerance for E.coli, Salmonella and other pathogenic organisms and <30 cfu/g for Coliforms (in reality as an ingredient provider, we never ship anything with coliform counts with out first getting approval from the customer).  We will also run specialized testing for our customers or send samples to reference labs for specialized testing.

 

Hopefully your suppliers will work with you.  If you have multiple suppliers it would be really hard to run multiple testing.  Even if they are running different testing the results should be comparable if they are validated (method suitability tested) to ensure their compliance.

 

Bonnie



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herdy

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Posted 16 September 2015 - 02:41 PM

Hi Emily,

 

I actually am a microbiologist who used to work as a microbiologist at an outside lab who does micro testing for food manufacturers but I am now a QA Manager so I may be able to bridge some gaps. My recommendation is to go to Food Safety Net Services which does have a lab in Michigan. They offer great testing (in my opinion) as well as a basic food microbiology course that could be of use to you. They also may be able to point you in the direction of where to find resources for guidelines. They legally can't tell you what to test and what your spec should be, but they may be able to give you a little guidance. Other labs, like Silliker may be able to provide the same thing, I just don't know first hand.

 

Magazine articles are also a great source for people who aren't as micro savvy. Try foodsafetymagazine. They may be able to give you some input. We actually site some articles as part of our SQF program

 

But generally, definitely start reviewing your COAs and performing internal testing just to be safe.

 

Hope that helps!



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Charles.C

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Posted 16 September 2015 - 10:51 PM

Emily,

Start with the Food Chemical Codex and the FDA BAM online.  In the US, these are the recommended test that your supplier's should be using to approve food ingredients and RTE foods.  Realize that some foods will require special buffer/dilutions for testing.  Upper limits will depend on the use of the food/ingredient and if the product has a "kill" step in the production, also the Risk Assessment for the product/ingredient, and to make matters more confusing.... also the target consumer. 

We always aim to keep micro to the minimum, No tolerance for E.coli, Salmonella and other pathogenic organisms and <30 cfu/g for Coliforms (in reality as an ingredient provider, we never ship anything with coliform counts with out first getting approval from the customer).  We will also run specialized testing for our customers or send samples to reference labs for specialized testing.

 

Hopefully your suppliers will work with you.  If you have multiple suppliers it would be really hard to run multiple testing.  Even if they are running different testing the results should be comparable if they are validated (method suitability tested) to ensure their compliance.

 

Bonnie

 

Hi Bonnie,

 

Thks for the input.

 

IMO FCC is a very useful, and highly respected, Reference Compilation but somewhat limited in Product scope.

 

I fear BAM will be rather unintelligible to a non-microbiologist other than the introductory sections which are excellent.

 

I guess it may be hygiene relevant to something like food grade ingredients but i have never understood the fascination with specifications for "coliforms" for many foods.

 

PS - Welcome to the Forum ! :welcome:


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


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Posted 17 September 2015 - 12:15 PM

One more thing to look at for the SQF, if you use a reference lab make sure they are certified ISO at a minimum.  They also require you to keep a list of outside testing services and I recommend having them send you their certifications as well as the description of the methodology they are using. be careful of expiration dates!  You may even want to schedule a trip to the lab to review their systems.

I cannot count how many "lists" the BRC makes us have and the review and documentation of approval of services I need to keep track of.



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ladytygrr

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Posted 17 September 2015 - 01:22 PM

Bo16 & herdy,

 

Thank you so much for your insights. I've downloaded the FDA BAM but haven't yet opened it to read. I'm all about finding a course to take - I'll try out FSNS for a micro course. I'm definitely NOT sciency (<= that's a technical term, of course  :shades: ) but my desk clump mate has a degree in biology and LOVES microbiology so I plan on exploiting her knowledge the best I can.  :rock:

 

This forum has absolutely exceeded itself on this topic. Many sincere thanks to all of you.

 

Happy Friday Eve!

 

~Emily~


Once in a while you get shown the light, in the darkest of places if you look at it right. -Grateful Dead

 





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