As the seasons shift toward warm weather, people begin having more outdoor picnics and gatherings and start eating more fresh produce and dairy products like ice cream.
It’s a time of year that everyone looks forward to, but it’s also a time when the potential for foodborne illness increases. Bacteria multiply faster in warm temperatures, and preparing food outdoors makes safe food handling more difficult. Furthermore, supply chain and shipping challenges are amplified in warmer weather as products and ingredients are transported from one facility to another.
The risk of recall — and more importantly, illness — is significant. To mitigate the risk and enable consumers to enjoy warm weather foods safely, it’s important to maintain a hygienic manufacturing environment and test for a number of contaminants.
Testing Dairy Products During Warm Weather
We all scream for ice cream in the summer months. As temperatures rise, the ice cream industry skyrockets as consumers reach for treats that will cool them down. Most ice cream is dairy-based, which can introduce pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., Campylobacter, and E. coli O157:H7.
In particular, raw milk’s legal maximum temperature is 45 degrees F. Higher temperatures means more bacterial growth, so transport and storage at the right temperature is vital for dairy safety and compliance. In particular, frozen ice cream that unfreezes and refreezes poses a major risk to consumers, as pathogens may be introduced during the unfreeze stage and then preserved when refrozen.
Testing at various levels of production including, starting with the raw product and including the manufacturing environment and finished product, helps to identify and address contamination throughout the supply chain. Dairies can implement a number of tests to ensure the product they deliver is safe and of the highest quality. Some of the most important tests to consider include:
- Direct Microscopic Count (DMC) to identify antibiotics
- Preliminary Incubation (PI-SPC) Count to see if psychrotrophic bacteria are present
- Milk composition tests for fat control and proper labeling
- Mycotoxins such as Aflatoxins that may have been introduced through animal feed
Additional testing such as for allergens, nutritional content, and quality should be performed at each stage of the supply chain and prior to dairy products entering the market.
Fruit and Vegetable Testing
Picnics and backyard parties tend to include plenty of raw veggie trays and fruit salads, a fresh and light way to stay cool during warm weather. Raw produce has long been considered one of the healthiest choices for human consumption, but comes with the higher risk of bacteria because it doesn’t go through a heating or cooking process that would kill off most foodborne pathogens.
The industry challenges begin at the farm, where growers need to protect their crops from insects, pests, and disease. As the produce moves along the supply chain, processors and distributors are responsible for ensuring the food is safe and of high enough quality for consumer use.
As demand for fresh fruits and vegetables increases during warm weather, so too should important safety testing. It’s vital to test produce samples for pesticide residue, allergens, acidity levels, moisture, minerals, and metals, while also identifying whether harmful pathogens and contaminants are present.
Common pathogens that affect fresh fruits and vegetables include Noroviruses, salmonella, listeria, and e. Coli, which can have severe or even fatal consequences. Testing at each stage of production will help ensure a safe farm-to-table experience for consumers.
Trust the Test
With so many people ramping up dairy and produce consumption in the coming months, it’s important to partner with a fast, reliable food safety laboratory.
Barrow-Agee Laboratories holds numerous testing certifications and accreditations relevant to the dairy and produce industries in both the U.S. and Canada. Our test result turnaround times are typically within five business days and are reported through a convenient online results portal as soon as they are available.
Contact Barrow-Agee Laboratories today to discuss your needs or submit a sample.