CSI: F.D.A.

by Joanie Spencer
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Food safety - salmonella in baked goods
Bakers and snack makers must be ever conscious of foodborne illness and the lengths to which its reach can extend.

HOUSTON — With Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations coming into effect, bakers and snack makers might not think they have any more reason to be ever more conscious of foodborne illness and the lengths to which its reach can extend.

“Think of it as CSI: F.D.A.,” Martin Hahn, partner, Hogan Lovells L.L.S., L.L.P., and SNAC International general counsel told SNAXPO attendees at the association’s annual conference in Houston. “F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration) now has the ability to do whole genome sequencing.”

Mr. Hahn described a listeria outbreak for which F.D.A. was able to track back to eight years ago.

“They knew — based on isolate that was collected today — that matched a listeria patient in California that had listeriosis in 2008,” Mr. Hahn said.

Mr. Hahn explained that pathogens may become established in certain locations or facilities.

“I was talking to a microbiologist about how a company discovered salmonella that was first isolated 20 years ago — the exact same strain — and they couldn’t figure out how that happened,” he said. “It turned out that the water they used to make the concrete in the wall was from a river that had salmonella, and when they were drilling on the walls, they released that salmonella that became reestablished in the environment and was almost the exact same strain that they had before.”

Today, the F.D.A. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a database that is continually growing, he said. Once DNA is identified in a facility, it’s in the database, and even one reported illness can be run against it.

“We now have tools available to the government that if you have a housed pathogen and they find it, even if there haven’t been any consumer outbreaks, if there’s a consumer in the future who gets sick who has consumed one of your products, they’ll have the ability to match that DNA and come back to you,” Mr. Hahn cautioned. “We’ll have the ability as a food industry to be linked with food safety illnesses that didn’t exist before.”
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