Documenting the kill
The baking industry never had reason to doubt that its heating process killed pathogens like Salmonella.
“If the process wasn’t doing that, there would have been problems a long time ago,” said Brian L. Strouts, vice-president, baking and food technical services for AIB International, Manhattan, Kas.
Now the Food Safety Modernization Act requires bakers to validate and to verify that the heating process is a kill step for potential pathogens in products.
“F.S.M.A. calls for scientific evidence that the heating process is a kill step,” Mr. Strouts said.
AIB International has developed an answer with a kill step validation system. An interactive calculator uses baking time and temperature parameters to automatically determine the total process lethality (for example, 5 log). The generated report may be used as guidance and supporting documentation for F.S.M.A.’s validation and verification process.
AIB International first developed the calculator for hamburger buns, which was followed by one for whole wheat bread and muffins. In March, crisp cookies became the fourth product calculator available.
Presently AIB International is working on a calculator for soft cookies, Mr. Strouts said, and calculators for donuts and tortillas are on the horizon.
“We are building a range of products now that vary in size and quality attributes,” Mr. Strouts said. “We can start to show across a broader and broader spectrum that each of these heat steps will be a kill step within the baking process.”
The Journal of Food Protection has published the kill step research paper.
“This is the only published scientific research available for the industry to use right now,” Mr. Strouts said. “So that’s what’s significant about our recently published research.”
Andre Biane, president and chief executive officer of AIB International, said he heard positive comments on the kill step validation system at the American Bakers Association’s convention in Phoenix in March. The kill step project means that each individual baking company does not have to do its own research.
“This work has helped the industry avoid spending millions of dollars on foundational research projects,” Mr. Biane said.
To develop the kill step validation, AIB Interna-tional collaborated with Kansas State University in
Manhattan, using one of the university’s biosafety labs, Mr. Strouts said. Researchers inoculated bakery products with Salmonella and then demonstrated how the Salmonella was killed as part of the baking process.
AIB International also worked closely with the A.B.A.’s Food Technical Regulatory Affairs Committee (F.T.R.A.C.). Members of baking companies and baking company suppliers make up the F.T.R.A.C., Mr. Strouts said.
“We really engaged the industry on what was the need and how we help bakeries demonstrate this as part of the F.S.M.A. regulations,” he said.
After finishing preliminary research last year, members of AIB International, the A.B.A. and Kansas State University met with members of the Food and Drug Administration to update the kill step validation research and process. The response from the F.D.A. was positive.
“They said we were the first industry association to come to them with research data supporting what industry needed to meet F.S.M.A. requirements,” Mr. Strouts said.
The researchers developed a model in which bakers input data that in large part they already gather as quality control points, such as data on the internal temperature of products as they are baking.
“This actually ties in with existing quality processes that bakers should be performing,” Mr. Biane said. “Therefore it’s not a huge additional burden for them to prove this, and they have data on hand.”
The bakers plug the data into a calculator developed by AIB International based on their research. The calculator then demonstrates the effectiveness from a pathogen kill standpoint.
“If the F.D.A. walks in and says, ‘Show me the verification and validation that your oven is performing a kill step,’ they can point to the research,” Mr. Biane said.
Researchers first tested the kill step process on hamburger buns, which are fairly simple to handle and control, as well as being a large product category, Mr. Strouts said. They inoculated three different strains of Salmonella into the buns. After 5 minutes of baking, a 5-log reduction, a common industry standard, was achieved.
“At 9 minutes of a baking time, we were able to demonstrate that a total kill is effective,” Mr. Strouts said.
Baking continued for another 4 minutes, reaching a total of 13 minutes, a common bake time used in the industry to obtain the desired quality attributes, such as volume, structure, color and texture.