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Total Coliform Count in Frozen Produce

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#1 Jpainter

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 10:18 PM

Hello, 

 

I recently began a new role as the food safety manger for a company that produces frozen produce. My background previously is in RTE meat products. My new company does not have written set standards for microbial tolerances for finished product, specifically total coliform count. Looking at testing records we seem to mostly be under 30 CFU/g, but we have spikes that range up to 280 CFU/g. I am trying to set a pass fail standard for product, but I am not sure what I need to set as an upper limit. I would like to set my target coliform level at 30 CFU/g or less, but I also need to set an upper limit for failure. Does anybody have experience in this with produce? If so how did you set your maximum allowable standard?

Thanks!

 

Jacob P.



#2 Charles.C

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 11:02 PM

Hello, 

 

I recently began a new role as the food safety manger for a company that produces frozen produce. My background previously is in RTE meat products. My new company does not have written set standards for microbial tolerances for finished product, specifically total coliform count. Looking at testing records we seem to mostly be under 30 CFU/g, but we have spikes that range up to 280 CFU/g. I am trying to set a pass fail standard for product, but I am not sure what I need to set as an upper limit. I would like to set my target coliform level at 30 CFU/g or less, but I also need to set an upper limit for failure. Does anybody have experience in this with produce? If so how did you set your maximum allowable standard?

Thanks!

 

Jacob P.

 

Hi Jacob,

 

"Coliform" is not considered a microbiological safety hazard.

 

A "Quality" opinion is sort of impossible since product/process is unknown.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#3 Jpainter

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 11:10 PM

Why would you say that coliform count is not a microbiological safety hazard? In my research and training, coliform count is directly correlated to sanitary standards within the facility. We do not rely on coliform as our sole microbiological test. We also test for indicator organisms and pathogens of interest. I have always considered coliforms, especially fecal coliforms and indicator of microbiological food safety, whereas I see tests for yeast and mold or TPC an indicator or quality (or spoilage organisms). With your thinking would coliform testing even be necessary if further testing for indicator organisms and pathogens is applied? Thanks for you input on this subject Charles   



#4 Charles.C

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 11:19 PM

Why would you say that coliform count is not a microbiological safety hazard? In my research and training, coliform count is directly correlated to sanitary standards within the facility. We do not rely on coliform as our sole microbiological test. We also test for indicator organisms and pathogens of interest. I have always considered coliforms, especially fecal coliforms and indicator of microbiological food safety, whereas I see tests for yeast and mold or TPC an indicator or quality (or spoilage organisms). With your thinking would coliform testing even be necessary if further testing for indicator organisms and pathogens is applied? Thanks for you input on this subject Charles   

 

Hi Jacob,

 

Please provide a link stating that "coliform" is regarded as a haccp microbiological hazard.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#5 Jpainter

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 11:29 PM

My question does not regard HACCP. We do not consider finished product testing in HACCP as it is no longer a critical control because the product is considered finished goods. I was only asking for input from those within the industry on what tolerances are common for coliforms. Provide me a link stating any microbiological product testing is or should be considered within a HACCP plan. The goal of HACCP is to reduce and eliminate hazards, not test for them. 



#6 Charles.C

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Posted 28 February 2019 - 11:36 PM

My question does not regard HACCP. We do not consider finished product testing in HACCP as it is no longer a critical control because the product is considered finished goods. I was only asking for input from those within the industry on what tolerances are common for coliforms. Provide me a link stating any microbiological product testing is or should be considered within a HACCP plan. The goal of HACCP is to reduce and eliminate hazards, not test for them. 

 

Hi Jacob,

 

Please refer to Post 2.

 

If you would simply like to see a range of general microbiological specifications, see the links in this post in current thread -

 

https://www.ifsqn.co...er/#entry138358

 

PS - sorry, I missed yr request for a link in above . i suggest to google "haccp - verification"


Edited by Charles.C, 28 February 2019 - 11:54 PM.
expanded

Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#7 Scampi

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Posted 01 March 2019 - 01:30 PM

Total coliform is used as a test in drinking water for general potability and is widely used in lots of facilities as a measure of the sanitary condition of said facility. 

 

https://www.cfs.gov...._Indicator.html

 

https://foodsafety.f...ators-09-07.pdf

 

https://academic.oup...47/2/221/357648

 

https://extension.ps...liform-bacteria

 

https://www.publiche...iform_Food.aspx

 

This article is discussing post harvest veggies in particular...........now you probably still want to swab for coliform, but that should be limited to equipment etc post sanitation as verification of those practices. The article goes on to say

http://postharvest.u...iles/269366.pdf

 

"Presence/absence tests or counts of generic E. coli in water or on fresh produce are poor indicators of fecal contamination and worse predictors of pathogen presence, but it is the best we have for now."


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#8 Charles.C

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Posted 02 March 2019 - 02:58 AM

Hi Scampi,

 

Thks for above

 

It's a pity that the OP's Product/Process are Unknown.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#9 Scampi

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 06:23 PM

And the plain desire to remove HACCP from the query.......people just don't seem to understand how HACCP works with the whole system, that it is not a stand alone entity


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#10 Jpainter

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 07:08 PM

Of course HACCP is not a stand alone system. HACCP has to be supported by prerequisite programs, and that is where microbial testing comes into place. I have never seen anyone consider microbial testing as a critical control point within HACCP. This is because testing only allows for reactive instead of proactive actions. The point of implementing an effective HACCP plan is to proactively protect product from adulteration. When controls become reactive, HACCP fails, thus this is part of a prerequisite program. I am fully aware of how HACCP works.



#11 Scampi

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 07:31 PM

Testing for total coliforms is not a reactive approch however. If you incorporate it as part of sanitation, they can then reclean prior to releasing equipment (as an example)

 

The cleaner the plant, the less microbes on your finished good


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#12 Jpainter

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 07:32 PM

This is for product testing, not environmental testing.



#13 Charles.C

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Posted 06 March 2019 - 06:40 AM

This is for product testing, not environmental testing.

 

Well, particularly if the product is RTE, eg cooked, the environmental sanitary condition may be related to the Coliform level.

 


 
 


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#14 Scampi

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Posted 06 March 2019 - 04:07 PM

is a customer demanding finished product testing?   I would think, like drinking water testing you'd want 5 or less CFU


Because we always have is never an appropriate response!


#15 Deborah.Coetzee

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Posted 09 March 2019 - 02:30 PM

Hi

 

There is a move away from coliform testing.  Testing should be for verification of more specific Ecoli - and the trend is moving towards testing of total Enterobacteriaceae as an alternative.   I will try and find the EU document I read on the subject!  Otherwise use google and see if it pops up :) 







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