Foodborne Pathogens: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?


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Presented at 2013 Arkansas Association for Food Protection annual conference.

Michael G. Johnson, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor, University of Arkansas Food Science Department

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Foodborne Pathogens: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?

  1. 1. Foodborne Pathogens: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going ? Michael G. Johnson, Ph.D. Emeritus Prof., UAF Food Science Dept. AAFP Meeting, Sept. 10-11, 2013 Fayetteville, AR
  2. 2. What is our goal -- Food Safety or Food Protection & What does that mean?? • From whence did IAFP and our AAFP come ? • Early history of IAFP was in milk processing technology and safety and the society name evolved to IAMFES-- What’s that stand for ? • Intnl Assoc Milk, Food, and Environmental Sanitarians • In 2000 that acronym morphed to IAFP = Intnl Assoc for Food Protection
  3. 3. Where are the hurts in Food Safety & Protection ? • Produce Safety Issues • Animal Food Safety Issues
  4. 4. Quotes about Thinking • J. Swift: “ It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he never reasoned into. “ • J. P. Moynihan: “ Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts “
  5. 5. Lately I’ve Been Thinking… • Our Modern Dilemma: • Mo Jo: More Doing … More Saving • More cell phone talking/texting/video watching = • Less thinking • One Solution: • Less Doing …. More Thinking • e. g., More quiet times w/o cell / tablet interruptions and more manual hands-on labor & walking to give quiet time = • More thinking, Try It !
  6. 6. So, where are we presently ? • Molecular Era of Food Safety : • Q: Are we drowning in a sea of chemical data ? • PCR gel slide: What does it tell us and not tell us ? • Ditto Q for CLAMP electrophoresis patterns known as PFGE patterns used by CDC to link foods and pathogens involved in human FBI cases ? • Sequencing coming on- e.g. , Silliker Labs, etc.
  7. 7. W. E. Deming: Quality Assurance to Continuous Quality improvement : PDCA  PDSA • Plan • Do • Check  Study • Act • Maybe, it’ s time to shift the paradigm from asking the microbes to read our laws and instead re-start reading, studying & learning the playbooks of the microbes
  8. 8. Q: What food safety era have we been in ? • A: We have been copying the tenets of Deming for auto manufacturing: • Namely, we have moved from Quality Control Model: ( = Is the finished food product ok in quality, microbiology and chemistry and nutritional aspects ? to ------> • The Quality Assurance model: ( = Is every step from starting raw product and ingredients and every processing step ok ? = HAACP )
  9. 9. Still we continue to have cases of human FBI– Why and What to Do ?? • Washington, DC’s answer is : Let’s write more laws and regulations  “ that will give us more food safety “ • But, even with more laws we still seem to keep having human FBI and food safety issues arise -- Why ? • Could it be that our dumb old foodborne pathogens do not care and do not read our dumb rules ? • $ for training & monitoring ( Fd Saf Ed Mini-Symp)
  10. 10. Maybe, just maybe we need to step back and re-think what we are doing: • Does it make scientific sense from first principles to legally declare: • Red meat carcasses with EHEC or Salmonella are not “ adulterated “ • But raw trim and raw ground beef from those carcasses with EHEC or Salmonella are “ adulterated “ ?
  11. 11. Similarly, for poultry product processing we can ask: • Does it make sense to legally declare that: • Poultry farms and flocks with Salmonella are not adulterated and are not subject to federal inspection or regulation but • Raw ground poultry with Salmonella from those flocks is adulterated ?
  12. 12. What is the trouble here ? • Could it be that we are still stuck in the old paradigm of Quality Control = equals if the door on the car does not fit at the end of the assembly line we condemn the whole car • Have we been lulled to sleep and so do not see that we truly do not yet have Quality Assurance as our Mo Jo = we have not demanded that the starting & intermediate steps of food processing be as free of pathogens as possible ?
  13. 13. What is microbial food safety & protection ? • MGJ’s answer is: • Everything that impacts the safety of my: – Air – Water – Food both plant and animal sources Who knows the “ parable of the lost car keys “ ?
  14. 14. What era are we heading into- How do we get to the Quality Assurance model of food safety ? • We need to head toward rediscovering the tenets of microbial ecology and whole cell physiology: • Namely, how do the indigenous microflora on food plants and in food animals affect the persistence of undesirable foodborne pathogens on and in foods from those sources ?
  15. 15. What is the key here ? • Besides using our evolving molecular tools we need to get a better understanding of “ Microbiomes” , namely how the native microflora on food plants affects the survival and persistence of foodborne pathogens , e.g. Listeria monocytogenes on cantaloupe or Salmonella, EHEC and now Cyclospora on lettuce and spinach, etc. IN THE FIELD .
  16. 16. Similarly for food animals: • We need to look at the indigenous microbiomes in the GI tracts of our food animals to see what their effects are on the persistence of foodborne pathogens • What kinds of interactions are going on in the host GI tract between the native microbiota and the invading pathogens ??
  17. 17. Finally, for man kind, what can we do ? • We can look at the effects of the microbiome in the GI tract of humans as a function of age, dietary choices, general nutritional status and genetics on the persistence of foodborne pathogens in those GI tracts and ability to cause cases of FBI.
  18. 18. Who can do all this ? • In 1984 when I joined the UAF faculty there were two faculty with some food safety assignment, namely, to my recall: • Dr. Mike Slavik in Animal & Poultry Science Dept and • MGJ in the Food Science Dept. • MGJ pestered UAF Admin for more food safety researchers and ….
  19. 19. Slowly, other Food Safety Researchers have been hired into the Food Science Dept. to work on the pathogens & microbiomes that affect man: • 2005, Steve Ricke, Wray Chair of Food Safety and Dir. Of Center for Food Safety: Pathogens impacting the safety of animal food products • 2012, Kristen Gibson : Noroviruses, environmentally transmitted pathogens impacting the safety of food products. • 2013, Franck Carbonero: Microbes in human GI tract that impact Gut Health and Nutritional Status
  20. 20. What is the take home message ? • My conclusion is: • We need to head up stream to gain a better understanding of how Mother Nature does what she does and where she does it as it concerns the microbes, their existence, persistence, and preferred niches in Nature. • What is your game plan ? Let’s talk about it. • What are your hypotheses ?
  21. 21. Questions ?