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PureLine Solutions is home to cutting-edge experts in sanitation, and we’ve been pleased to host a number of webinars on relevant food safety trends and concerns. Most recently, we hosted a roundtable focused on combating Cronobacter, a pathogen that has been in the headlines lately following an outbreak at an infant formula producing facility in Michigan. On August 10th, we hosted a critical panel with three important experts in food safety: Dr. Martin Wiedmann, the Cornell University Gellert Family Professor in Food Safety,  Joe Stout, founder of Commercial Food Sanitation (CFS), and Monty Bohanan, Corporate Manager of Sanitation at Leprino Foods. 

Cronobacter 101

Dr. Wiedmann led an introduction to the Cronobacter species, noting that C. sakazakii, C. malonaticus, and C. turincensis are often the most problematic for food safety concerns. Cronobacter can be concerning for people of all ages, but the infection can be particularly problematic for those with weakened immune systems, those who are 65 years+, or for infants, who can develop sepsis or meningitis as a result of cronobacter bloodstream infection. Cronobacter infections among infants typically occur as a result of contaminated infant formula, which is most topical given the recent Abbott Nutrition Michigan facility’s outbreak. Right now, there’s only one state in America that requires reporting of infections. Unlike the regulations surrounding Listeria, another food-borne illness, Minnesota is the only state with required reporting for Cronobacter infections and illnesses, which means that there’s currently limited data on Cronobacter outbreaks. 

Dr. Wiedmann stressed the importance of a few key takeaways: using trusted labs for Cronobacter testing is crucial, there’s a high likelihood that Cronobacter will become more of a focus of regulatory and food safety agencies in the future, and that whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a strategy to investigate outbreaks, is at its infancy for Cronobacter, meaning the future of detecting and preventing Cronobacter outbreaks is somewhat unclear. To learn more of Dr. Wiedmann’s recent work regarding WGS and food safety, you can read “Where Old Law Meets a New Era of Smarter Food Safety”, which he co-authored with Melanie Neumann, J.D., M.Sc.


Zoning & Floors

Joe Stout, founder of CFS, then presented on zoning and floors. He identified that there are multiple pathogens of concerns for dairy products, and that Cronobacter sakazakii is particularly relevant. Stout presented “the pathogen equation”, which follows:

Separate raw from RTE + Good manufacturing practice and controlled conditions + Sanitary facility and equipment design + effective cleaning and sanitation procedures and controls + environmental pathogen monitoring = effective pathogen control.

Separating raw from ready-to-eat food is a crucial first step in this equation. Hygienic zoning, the process of creating barriers to protect areas and product of increased sensitivity from environmental contamination, is important in separating raw from RTE foods.

Floors are also crucial in maintaining a safe, sterile environment. Stout said to think of floors like “a bacteria farm field”, where all sorts of pathogens can spread. Stout recommends exploring dry chemical foot controls, as they can be particularly effective for Listeria or Salmonella growth, but that being intentional and critical about selecting a sanitizer chemical supplier is important, as many dry chemical foot controls aren’t EPA registered and make no efficacy claims. For further reading, Stout recommended “Controlling Pathogens in Dairy Processing Environments: Guidance for the U.S. Dairy Industry.”


Environmental Monitoring & Dry Sanitation

Lastly, Monty Bohanan presented on environmental monitoring. He explained that verifying and validating all pathogen control programs is the final key in the pathogen control equation. The pathogens of concerns for dry environments are Salmonella, and most topically, Cronobacter. These bacteria are resilient, meaning they can survive in very warm environments. Using indicator organisms, such as EB swabs, is an effective way to monitor the environment for Cronobacter and Salmonella. Swabbing regularly and consistently is important.

Bohanan says that dry sanitation, or a “war on water” is particularly effective, as wet sanitation can allow the Cronobacter to adapt to their environment and continue to grow. Mixing wet and dry cleaning is a “recipe for disaster”, and any alcohol used in the process must be 100% dried out. Dry sanitation is best completed through the use of vacuum cleaners, which serve as both the tool for sanitizing and the drain through which samples can be collected and tested. He stressed that with dry cleaning, there must be a defined process, with a set schedule and 24/7 implementation, not just the typical 4-hour window we often think of in food safety sanitation. Bohanan said that he uses PureLine’s ClO2 gas as a dry cleaning method, and he stressed the importance of working with professionals to implement chlorine dioxide solutions.

To learn more about how PureLine Solutions can help your food production facility eliminate Cronobacter, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch soon.

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