Treating raw ingredients to reduce pathogens earned big headlines when Nestlé USA, Solon, OH, changed specs for its popular Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie doughs to now use heat-treated flour. In 2009, the company voluntarily recalled its dough products after an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a rash of E. coli 0157:H7 illnesses may have been related to consumption of raw cookie dough.

Recently, both ConAgra Mills, Omaha, NE, and Siemer Specialty Ingredients, Teutopolis, IL, announced availability of flours treated to eliminate pathogens.

“Flour is a raw ingredient,” said Rob Ferguson, customer account executive for Siemer. “With heightened awareness in regards to food safety and efforts to protect the end user, there are definitely a lot more (companies) purchasing the heat-treated flour.” Siemer achieves 5-log-validated pathogen reduction in its heat-treated soft wheat flour, he said. The company also offers heat-treated stabilized wheat bran and germ.

SafeGuard Ready-To-Eat Flour from ConAgra Mills goes through a validated 5-log pathogen-reduction process. “The lethality treatment maintains flour’s natural flavor, color, absorption, appearance and gluten functionality while achieving up to a 5-log-validated pathogen reduction,” said Kent Juliot, senior director, quality, ConAgra Mills and ConAgra Foods, Omaha, NE.

 The company also offers SafeGuard Treatment and Delivery System for any bulk flour and specialty grain delivery.

“Log reduction is a mathematical term used to show the relative number of microbes eliminated from a product,” said Deann Akins, PhD, principal food safety specialist at ConAgra Mills. “The 5-log refers to the reduction in the number of microorganisms by 100,000-fold. For example, if a food product contained 100,000 pertinent microorganisms, a 5-log reduction would reduce the number of pertinent microorganisms to 1.”