WASHINGTON — When regulations carrying out the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) go into effect roughly two years from now, operators of food plants must validate the effectiveness of their preventative controls. For bakers, this means proving that their ovens really do destroy pathogenic organisms. And that requires verifying that the temperature profile within the product reaches and sustains the kill step during its transit through the oven.

The problem with validating the oven as the kill step, however, is that no one in their right mind would want to run routine tests with live pathogens in a working bakery.

The American Bakers Association (A.B.A.), through its Food Technical and Regulatory Affairs Committee (F.T.R.A.C.) in collaboration with AIB International, has a possible solution, but it needs to make sure that the idea works.

Although the kill points for Salmonella, Enterococcus faecium, E. coli and similar pathogens are well researched and widely known, none of that testing was done in a bread matrix, according to A.B.A.’s F.T.R.A.C.

The A.B.A. and AIB want to offer bakers yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as a safe stand-in. This will require verification that yeast experiences the same kill step in a bread or bun matrix as the dangerous microbes. The work will be done in a qualified biosafety level No. 2 laboratory and published in a peer-reviewed journal.

If bakers yeast earns that surrogate role, then bakers could validate their ovens as F.S.M.A. preventative controls by running regular temperature profile tests using probe-equipped data loggers and their regular yeast-raised doughs.

Managing the AIB-A.B.A. F.T.R.A.C. project is committee member Maureen Olewnik, Ph.D., senior vice-president, audit and technical services, AIB International. Her team selected hamburger buns as the model.