Hello and welcome once again to the Amerex Blog! Lately we are hearing about more and more alerts related to the food safety of numerous pathogens… Particularly over the past year, a food alert due to the presence of Listeria in sausages from Italy.

Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacteria that can cause serious illness in humans. In light of this situation, it is essential to be informed about the risks associated with Listeria in products such as fresh sausages and to take the necessary measures to ensure food safety. Therefore, in this blog post we want to share with you how to explore the precautions to be taken into account when consuming sausages and how to protect ourselves from the appearance of Listeria.

How often can we find Listeria-contaminated sausages in the market?

The presence of Listeria in sausages is a major concern in terms of food safety. According to the RASSF (Rapid Alert System Feed and Food), there have already been around 60 food alerts reported this past year due to the presence of Listeria, all of which are serious or potentially of serious risk. Although the cases of contamination may be different, and this is a bacteria that can be present in a wide variety of foods, it is crucial to understand the importance of ensuring the safety of the sausages we consume, as they are far from being free from this risk.

Indeed, it is an issue to be taken into account and it is essential to know the preventive measures and proper procedures to minimize the likelihood of finding Listeria-contaminated sausages in the market. By following the right best practices, storage and cooking practices, we can significantly reduce the risks and enjoy safe and delicious sausages.

What could happen to us if we eat Listeria-contaminated sausages?

The consumption of sausages contaminated with Listeria can have serious consequences for our health. As mentioned above, Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacteria that can cause the disease known as listeriosis. If we eat contaminated sausages, there is a risk of developing symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In the most severe cases, especially in people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and the elderly, infection with this pathogen can lead to serious complications and even death.

Person holding the hand of another one lying in a hospital bed

Therefore, we must be aware of the risks associated with the appearance of Listeria in any type of food and take all the necessary measures to avoid its consumption when there are food alerts or suspicions of contamination. Food safety and consumer health must always be a priority.

What are the indicators that sausages are spoiled due to contamination with Listeria or other bacterial species?

It is important to be aware of certain indicators that could point out that the sausages are spoiled and contaminated with Listeria or other bacteria. Some of these signs to watch for are the following:

  • Expiration date: First of all, always check the expiration date printed on the sausage package. If the date has passed or is close, it is possible that the sausages are in poor condition and may present an increased risk of bacterial contamination.
  • Bad smell: Pay attention to the smell of the sausages. If you detect an unpleasant, acidic or ammonia-like odour, this could indicate that the sausages are spoiled and could be contaminated with bacteria such as Listeria.
  • Visual appearance: Look closely at the sausages. If you notice changes in colour, such as unusual spots or discoloration, or if they have mould, this is a clear indicator that the sausages are in poor condition and should be thrown away.
  • Abnormal texture: Fresh sausages should have a firm, elastic texture. If the sausages feel soft, slimy or crumbly to the touch, be alert, this could be a sign of bacterial contamination.

It is important to remember that these indicators are only a guide and not a firm confirmation of the presence of Listeria or other bacteria. However, if there is any doubt of contamination, it is always recommended not to eat the sausages in order to avoid possible health risks.

What actions can we take in our homes to avoid the proliferation of Listeria or other pathogens?

It is key in order to protect ourselves from pathogen and bacterial contamination that we follow some of the most basic preventive practices in our own homes. Some actions to take are as follows:

  • Proper storage: Store sausages in the refrigerator at a safe temperature, generally below 4°C. Make sure they are properly wrapped or in sealed containers to avoid cross-contamination with other foods.
  • Hygienic handling: Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling sausages. This will help prevent the transfer of bacteria to the food.
  • Avoid cross-contamination: Keep raw sausages separated from other foods, especially those that will be consumed without additional cooking, such as salads or sauces. Use different utensils and cutting boards for raw and cooked foods.
  • Appropriate cooking: Be sure to cook sausages thoroughly, until they reach a safe internal temperature of at least 75°C. Using a cooking thermometer can be helpful to check the internal temperature.
  • Prompt consumption: Eat the sausages within their recommended expiration date. Avoid leaving them out of the refrigerator for extended periods of time and do not let them be kept at room temperature for too long.

These preventive actions are essential to reduce the risk of contamination by Listeria or other pathogens in the sausages we consume at home. By following these practices, we minimize the risks to the health of both ourselves and our family and can enjoy safer meals.

How is the Food Industry concerned about preventing Listeria contamination and working to avoid its appearance in the different foods we consume?

The Food Industry plays a key role in preventing Listeria contamination and works actively to avoid its presence in different foods, including sausages. The industry implements measures to guarantee food safety such as good hygienic practices at all stages of manufacturing, quality controls and risk analysis to identify possible sources of contamination, development of traceability programs, investment in advanced processing technology (e.g. pasteurization systems in the case of sausages) and compliance with regulations and standards established by health authorities and control bodies.

Food handlers with fresh sausages

In addition to the use of food additives or preservatives that inhibit the growth of these bacteria, which is used by manufacturers in all food sectors. This is demonstrated by the numerous companies that ask us about natural alternatives within the Amerex portfolio to address this problem. For example, our range of natural preservatives includes a clean label blend, Biamex Export, which is a specialist against Listeria. In addition to other products that have direct action against pathogenic microorganisms, helping to keep food in better condition and last longer.

We hope that this Blog entry has made you more aware of these food alerts and the care in food handling. Remember that food safety is everyone’s responsibility, and it is essential to follow the recommendations of health authorities and be informed about current food alerts.

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Dairy industry

Hello everyone and welcome again to our Amerex Blog!

As we have mentioned in our previous Blog posts, Listeria monocytogenes, a common bacteria found in the food industry as well as the disease it causes -listeriosis-, are back in the spotlight. As per the information gathered in the last few months, even though it is related to the meat industry, it poses a threat to many other sectors as well.

Therefore, the objective of this Blog post is to ensure that everyone is conscious of another battlefield when it comes to Listeria: dairy industry. Specifically, and as a case study, we would like to explain a very interesting situation that happened at Amerex. Let’s have a look!

Feta cheese is a Greek origin cheese made mainly from goat milk. It is considered a “ready-to-eat meal” by the AESAN as it doesn’t require any cooking or processing to reduce or eliminate the presence of Listeria monocytogenes to bring it within the acceptable range. This is the main reason behind the prevalence of this type of bacteria in this cheese. Furthermore, according to integrated mathematical models in ComBase, an online tool created by a collaboration between Tasmania University and the USDA-ARS for quantitative food microbiology, feta cheese is classified as a food where the growth of Listeria monocytogenes is possible due to its pH, aW and lactic-acid concentration.

Feta cheese, a food where the growth of Listeria monocytogenes is possible

Nevertheless, numerous research papers published in major scientific journals proved that feta cheese, in particular, prevents the development of this family of bacteria and, in addition, leads to a progressive inactivation of microorganisms. These researches fool the industry into believing that feta cheese meets the necessary food safety requirements of food safety for Listeria monocytogenes for its entire shelf-life, however, it is important to bear in mind the significance of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), such as: contamination level of raw materials, specific processing conditions, etc… All of these are included in the barriers we discussed in the previous post from our Blog.

In fact, these HACCP guidelines contradict the information in the aforementioned scientific journals. The moment any raw material, mainly pasteurized milk, is contaminated during fermentation, it provides ideal conditions for the proliferation of the infectious agent within the first two days. Considering this growth, under certain circumstances, some strains of Listeria monocytogenes can survive a standard pasteurization process; this could be a cause of alarm for human health safety.

It should be noted that the low temperature and low pH conditions during storage provide an ideal environment for the stabilization of the bacteria in high concentrations. In addition, even in temperatures starting 1.7 ºC and above, it cannot be guaranteed that the cheese is free of pathogens. In addition, the regulation parameters specify that, in order to prove that Listeria monocytogenes does not grow in a product, it would have to meet one of the following requirements: pH≤4.4, or aW≤0.92, or a combination of both parameters: pH≤5.0 and aW≤0.94.

Since feta cheese has a pH of 4.4-4.6 and aW of 0.94-0.95, it barely fits within these parameters and it is likely to exceed in some batches. Therefore, taking into account the temperature mentioned above, we could be facing potential threats.

Following this explanation and the previous post from our blog, it is key to try to manufacture a 100% safe food item. It is clear that there is no single formula for achieving this level of absolute safety. However, the more barriers between the pathogen and our product, the better.

This is a problem that affects not only meat and dairy industry, but also other sectors of the food industry that are normally considered exempt for this threat.

There is always something to be done for improving safety. We invite you to share your own concerns, whatever industry you belong to, and we will provide personalized assistance to boost your confidence regarding the launch of products.

Here at Amerex we design our preservatives with specialized technology and are constantly developing our know-how, to achieve one of our main objectives: building a set of barriers that are unbreakable for any harmful microorganism.

Once again… Here we are!

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Listeria monocytogenes

Welcome again to our blog as we say goodbye to summer! In today’s Blog, we will discuss one of the hottest issues in food industry at present-ensuring food safety against Listeria.

At Amerex, we are always on the lookout for important issues that concern major sectors of the food industry. Particularly, in recent months, various health problems caused by Listeria monocytogenes have surged, so let’s look into this in detail to find out more. For example, heat is not a deterrent to the growth of this bacteria, many products that are manufactured using various heat treatments, like fermented sausage (“chorizo”), cooked blood sausage (“morcilla”), roasted meat (“carne mechada”), or any other product strongly treated by heat, might still be affected by the growth of Listeria. There is a common tendency to rely these heat treatments followed by the refrigeration processes to eliminate the presence of these bacteria entirely but, ultimately, these act only as barriers. We believe that each barrier, though beneficial, works as an additional wall to prevent contamination. Therefore, the more barriers, the better the safety.

List of protective barriers: moisture and pH, packaging, chemical additives, atmosphere control. storage, HACCP systems and heat treatment

The need to protect meat products like the ones mentioned before against the harmful effects of Listeria is a serious issue that the food industry deals with currently. In case of the meat, there are two barriers: the heat treatment, which is the former barrier, followed by the refrigerated storage, which acts as the latter. Specifically related to the storage, we would like to cite this article from El Mundo: Listeria: Crece la amenaza de la bacteria que sobrevive en tu nevera (“Listeria: The threat of the bacteria that survives in your fridge grows”). This article describes the occurrence, development and consequences of the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in food and the measures to be taken for preventing its appearance and growth. However, heat treatment and refrigeration, combined with control of the product’s initial microbial load and hygiene, are sometimes taken into consideration while at other times, overlooked.

As companies in the meat sector, you may think that by controlling the above-mentioned barriers, you have already controlled the presence of Listeria, but sometimes, things are not that simple. In addition to all possible barriers, out of which heat treatment, refrigeration and hygiene are the most significant to consider when it comes to safety control, there exist further barriers like the preservative solutions provided by Amerex. One of our top sales, Fermitrat® Export, would act as an additional barrier by itself.

Image showing the effect of Fermitrat-Export, one of our preservatives, against Listeria sp. inoculated in foie. You can see how both dosages of Fermitrat control growth better, practically eliminating this bacteria at a dosage of 1.5 g/Kg of the preservative
Image showing the effect of Fermitrat-Export, one of our preservatives, against three strains of Listeria sp. inoculated into sliced ​​turkey. At a dosage of 1.5 g/Kg of Fermitrat, a bacteriostatic effect is produced, preventing the growth of the bacteria which is three logarithmic units lower than the sample without the preservative

Among the barriers, we can find references in the legislation about microbiological criteria, which includes pH and aW criteria. Therefore, once these two parameters are met, there is no further requirement to ensure safety.

Extract from the legislation about microbiological criteria, which establishes that products with less or equal to 4.4 pH levels and less or equal to 0.92 water activity, or products with with less or equal to 5 pH levels and less or equal to 0.94 water activity, cannot support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes

You may think that by abiding to the legislative parameters and maintaining adequate supervision pf certain other parameters, you are free from danger against Listeria. However, if you aim to create higher quality, more desirable products, you could even lower the pH and aW requirements by adding a protector in your manufacturing process.

The choice is in your hands, we are available round the clock to clarify your doubts and uncertainties and to provide you the necessary assistance to meet your requirements.

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