From federally recommended food pyramids to old sayings and even to your own doctor, every person in the United States has received a consistent directive when it comes to our diets: Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
It’s good advice. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense foods that provide energy and promote good general health. They are often low in calories and unneeded factors like fats and sugars. They are essential parts of our lives. But while eating raw vegetables and fruit is part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s key to remember that doing so also comes with a real risk of harmful bacteria.
According to a 2018 CDC study, produce — categorized by the CDC as fruits and nuts, leafy, fungi, root, sprout, and vine-stalk vegetables — was responsible for more foodborne illness than any other food group. Produce was responsible for 46 percent of all foodborne illnesses during the study period (1998–2008) and trailed only meat and poultry (29 to 23 percent) in terms of the deaths they were responsible for.
In recent years, the strain E. coli O157:H7 has been the culprit in a series of leafy green safety recalls. Such was the case last fall when an E. coli outbreak led to more than 40 cases across 19 states with 20 hospitalizations.
Clearly, E. coli produce testing remains top of mind for food producers. For any company that works with raw produce, it’s just one of many potential pathogens to be cognizant of, including Salmonella, Listeria, and Noroviruses. With the CDC estimating approximately 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths per year due to food poisoning, E. coli produce testing remains as necessary today as it ever has been.
Learn more about what Barrow-Agee Laboratories can do. Read here for more information about our work with animal feed and poultry testing.
Microbiological Testing Needed to Find E. Coli, Other Contaminants
Early identification is vital to produce safety measures and to prevent eventual recall further down the line. If you are a grower or distributor of produce, it’s essential to test for physical, chemical and, of course, bacterial contamination at each stage of the supply chain to protect the health of your consumers as well as the profitability of your business.
A regular produce safety testing program, including working with a microbiology testing laboratory, is the best way to address and identify any contamination among the three potential sources. A complete food safety program, including E. coli produce testing, can provide information about the environment, process, and product while also identifying any potential contaminants.
A comprehensive plan and testing regimen will help you understand the specifics of risks faced at each stage of the supply chain for your particular product. With an intimate knowledge of your farming, handling, packaging, and processing practices, you’ll know where contamination might occur and what to test for. Talking with professionals at a trusted food and produce testing laboratory will give additional details and insight on how to and how often to engage your testing protocols.
It’s also important to note the need for a statistically valid sampling plan as part of your food safety program. Ensuring you’re testing enough of your product to get accurate results is vital for any testing, but it’s especially important for produce. Produce is often consumed raw and thus doesn’t go through the usual heating or cooking process that would kill off most foodborne pathogens; it’s essential that microbiological testing is used to safeguard your product as much as possible before it’s shipped for consumers.
Unsure about sampling techniques? Read here for more on how an automated sampling program can offer major benefits.
Barrow-Agee is Equipped for Key E. coli Produce Testing
With a wide assortment of microbiological tests needed to guarantee the safety of your produce, Barrow-Agee Laboratories can help you identify harmful pathogens and contaminants. More than that, our full line of wet chemistry analyses will help you understand other aspects of your produce, like moisture levels, acidity content, and more. We can also assist with nutritional panel analyses, which will enable you to communicate the nutritional and dietary information consumers need when making decisions. Whatever your produce testing needs, Barrow-Agee Laboratories offers the necessary support and service to keep your company on the right path.
Barrow-Agee Laboratories is trusted and valued for its respected work in testing. We’ve earned ISO/IEC 17025:2017 accreditation with the American Association of Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), the only independent, internationally recognized accreditation body in the United States that offers a full range of comprehensive conformity assessment services.
We have undergone reviews and testing processes for more than a dozen accreditations, certifications, registrations, and other formal approvals from an assortment of national, state, and industry agencies and organizations. You can find a complete and ever-growing list of all our accreditations and certifications here, and below are our other national associations:
- USDA Accredited for Chlorinated Hydrocarbon Pesticides
- USDA AMS Laboratory Approval Program for Export of Meat and Poultry
- USDA APHIS Registered Laboratory
- FDA Registered Establishment
- American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) Certified Laboratory
- American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) Approved Chemists
- National Oilseed Producers Association (NOPA) Approved Chemists
How to Begin With Our Produce Testing Laboratories
Barrow-Agee Laboratories understands you have goods to produce, customers to satisfy, and a business that needs direction — every day. Our team of experts in the field of microbiology testing will work quickly and efficiently to make sure your samples are tested and the results sent back to you in less than a week. We’ll help you maintain operations and make the most of your production process. An expedited analysis is also available as needed. Here’s a brief outline of the sample testing process:
- Contact us to discuss your produce testing needs
- Collect the recommended number of samples from your facility
- Complete the Barrow-Agee Laboratories Sample Form
- Ship the completed form and samples to Barrow-Agee Laboratories
- We’ll process the samples within five hours of receipt
- Most test results will be returned via email within five days
While our online results portal gives you fast access to test results, we can do much more than process one-time samples. Barrow-Agee can also work with you to set up an environmental monitoring program and test your finished products — or ingredients — at any and every stage in the production process. We’ll deliver accurate results on a reliable schedule.