IFT Report Describes Challenges Of Food Industry Stepping Up To The P(a)lates Of Consumers

CHICAGO -- Minimally processed. Convenient. Nutritious. And tasty! These words capture consumer demand for food today. This demand is a challenge for the food industry because it must also consider the microbiological safety, shelf life, and packaging of such foods, notes Elmer H. Marth, Ph.D., principal author of the Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT's) Scientific Status Summary "Extended Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods: Microbiological Quality and Safety."*

"Increasingly, all types of consumers are demanding minimally-processed foods that are high in quality, nutritionally superior, and easy to prepare," he says. "Food processors have met this demand by developing refrigerated foods with extended shelf life, [such as] complete heat-and-eat meals, fresh pasta, and [pre-washed or deli-style] salads."

However, contrary to past conventional wisdom, scientists now know that several pathogens, such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria species, and certain strains of Clostridium botulinum, can grow at refrigeration temperatures, which means that manufacturers must stringently apply control measures to refrigerated foods with extended shelf life.

According to Marth, good manufacturing practices (GMPs), sanitation, and hygiene are key to microbiological control. These include using high-quality raw materials with low levels of microorganisms, selecting food processing equipment that is easy to clean and does not harbor contaminants, sanitizing equipment regularly to prevent build-up of bacteria, checking equipment for cleaning adequacy with microbiological tests, filtering the air of food processing areas to reduce airborne contaminants, and training personnel to use hygienic food handling practices. Expanding upon GMPs, establishing a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system is also important to fully identify and control food safety hazards. Beyond food production, acc

Contact: Angela Dansby
(312) 782-8424
Institute of Food Technologists

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