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Food Microbiology Management

Development – To define detail, scope and purpose.

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Training participants will gain a basic understanding of Food Microbiology Management and its applications within food safety and quality systems. Basic knowledge competency will be verified through successful completion of the accompanying Food Microbiology Management assessment activity. Basic skill competency can be verified through the Food Microbiology Management competency checklist available as a resource for this training activity.

Key Definitions For Food Microbiology Management
- Bacteria: Bacteria are microscopic single-celled or non-cellular spherical or spiral or rod-shaped organisms which are present everywhere; in the air, the soil and on human skin. Many types of bacteria can cause diseases, but others can be very helpful to humans.
- Binary Fission: A method of asexual reproduction in which the parent cell divides into two equal, or nearly equal, parts, each of which develops to parental size and form.
- Biochemistry: Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes in living organisms. It deals with the structure and function of cellular components such as proteins, carbohydrates and lipids.
- Food Microbiology: Food microbiology is the study of the micro-organisms which inhabit, create or contaminate food, including micro-organisms that cause food spoilage, food borne illness and beneficial bacteria such as probiotics.
- Microbiological Pathogens: Any microbiological entity including viruses, bacteria or other micro-organisms that can cause food borne illness in humans.

Food Microbiology Management Development
When considering the development, documentation and implementation of Food Microbiology Management within food safety and quality management systems, the following information should be considered to ensure effective outcomes:

About Food Microbiology Management
A minimum of a basic understanding of Food Microbiology Management is an elemental requirement for food industry personnel who participate in the development, implementation and review of HACCP plans and finished product testing among other food safety and quality management system elements. This ensures that relevant microbiological hazards are effectively controlled and do not impact upon the safety or quality of finished food products.

Bacteria in Food
Bacteria are everywhere in our environment. Most are harmless and are used to make foods, such as yogurt. Others are spoilage organisms that sour and rot foods. A few bacteria become a threat to our health when they grow and reproduce; these are commonly known as microbiological pathogens. Sources of these bacteria include soil, water, air, dust, edible plants, plant products, animals, animal products, intestinal tracts of humans and animals, employee’s hands and contaminated food utensils and equipment. A common misconception is that food is free of bacteria that cause food borne diseases when it reaches the establishment or after processing.

Human Bacteria
Another common misconception is that healthy employees do not harbor harmful bacteria. Healthy humans commonly have their own natural population of bacteria, and some are the variety that causes food borne diseases. High percentages of the population are carriers of bacteria that cause food borne illness. In this context, sick employees are carriers of greater numbers of organisms that cause food borne illness.

Bacterial Growth
Bacteria require nutrients. These are essentially foods to provide the basic elements for their growth. These nutrients include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, sodium, magnesium, iron and manganese. Before bacterial growth can occur, other essential requirements must be favourable, such as temperature and the level of oxygen of the bacterial growth environment.

Bacterial growth refers to the increase in number of organisms. This process is accomplished by Binary Fission, whereby the bacterial cell splits to form two cells. Bacterial growth can be very rapid. It may occur at a frequency of every 20 minutes in optimum conditions, but not until conditions are just right for the type of bacteria involved. There are four phases bacteria go through within their life cycle. It is important to understand what takes place at each phase of the bacterial growth curve to be able to target effective control points for bacteria within a structured food safety and quality program.

Bacterial Lag Phase: Phase 1
When bacteria are introduced to food, there is usually an adjustment or lag period. During this time there is considerable biochemical activity but no increase in the number of cells. The lag phase can be from a few hours to days. When conditions are right for the type of bacteria involved, rapid growth commences.

Bacterial Log Phase: Phase 2
This is called the logarithmic or log phase because the bacteria double their number by cell division, some at a rate of every 20 minutes. This rapid growth stage is generally not appreciated until it is illustrated. The following example shows how bacteria can multiply rapidly under ideal conditions with 216 bacteria cells:
- Within 20 minutes, the 216 cells would have multiplied to 432;
- 40 minutes, 864 cells;
- 60 minutes or 1 hour, 1728 cells;
- 80 minutes, 3456 cells;
- 100 minutes, 6912 cells;
- 120 minutes or 2 hours, 13824 cells;
- 140 minutes, 27648 cells;
- 160 minutes, 55296 cells;
- 180 minutes or 3 hours, 110592 cells;
- 200 minutes, 221184 cells;
- 220 minutes, 442368 cells;
- 240 minutes or 4 hours, 884736 cells;
- 260 minutes, 1769472 cells.

This example demonstrates how starting with 216 bacteria and with a 20 minute doubling rate, after 4 hours and 20 minutes there would be over 1 million bacteria.

Stationary Phase: Phase 3
After a period of rapid growth, bacteria numbers reach the levelling-off stage as their nutrients are used up and waste accumulates. Foods contaminated by bacteria at this level and beyond are usually spoiled because of the bacterial activity and are generally unacceptable from a purely organoleptic viewpoint including flavour, aroma, texture and appearance.

Death Phase: Phase 4
At this point, the food is no longer suitable for supporting growth and the bacteria die.

Effects of Temperature on Bacteria
Because of the unique survival capabilities of bacteria, it is important to limit their growth in food as much as possible. Bacteria have a maximum and minimum range of temperature for growth, which varies from one type to the next. The following classification of these temperature ranges is summarised is provided as an example of bacterial profiling:
- Psychrophiles: Typical temperature growth range is minus 8 degrees Celsius or 18 degrees Fahrenheit to 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Psychrophiles can grow under refrigerated temperatures;
- Psychrotrophs: Typical temperature growth range is minus 5 degrees Celsius or 23 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Psychrotrophs can grow under refrigerated temperatures;
- Mesophiles: Typical temperature growth range is 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 56 degrees Celsius or 133 degrees Fahrenheit. Mesophiles are generally considered the most common bacteria affecting foods;
- Thermophiles: Typical temperature growth range is 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Celsius or 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermophiles are important to considering for processes such as canning and hot filling, as they are heat resistant.

Microbiological Cross Contamination
Pathogens can be transferred from one food to another, either by direct contact or by food handlers, contact surfaces or the air. Raw, unprocessed food should be effectively separated, either physically or by time, from ready-to-eat foods, with effective intermediate cleaning and where appropriate disinfection. Access to processing areas may need to be restricted or controlled. Where risks are particularly high, access to processing areas should be only via a changing facility. Personnel may need to be required to put on clean protective clothing including footwear and wash their hands before entering. Surfaces, utensils, equipment, fixtures and fittings should be thoroughly cleaned and where necessary disinfected after raw food, particularly meat and poultry, has been handled or processed.

Additional Relevant Information
The following information is provided from other foodindustrycompliance.com Training Activities as the content is relevant to Food Microbiology Management:

Food Business Receival Requirements
All incoming materials need to be transported and received in an appropriate manner. A documented program must be in place for monitoring and controlling transportation and receipt of incoming goods.

The following points should be considered in the Receival Policy and the records used to document incoming goods:
- Inspection of vehicle delivering raw materials:
- Is it clean?
- Is it appropriately temperature controlled?
- Is it also transporting chemicals or other non-food products that could potentially contaminate food stuffs?
- Does it have appropriate regulatory registration if applicable?
- All goods delivered must be checked against the original purchase order to verify that they have been ordered. Goods that do not comply with the purchasing requirements should be rejected unless it can be ascertained from an appropriate source that the goods are suitable for use;
- Inspection of goods:
- Are the products labelled and packaged appropriately?
- Check the dates marked on the packaging: Use by / Best before / Production Dates. If no date is available on individual packaging, it may be advantageous to manually label the item with the Received date.
- Are the products from an approved supplier?
- Is the packaging integrity maintained with no evidence of damage, tampering, or pest infestation?
- Check the product temperature. Does it meet the specification?  If it does not meet the specification, define what action needs to be taken.
- Does the quantity ordered match the quantity received?
- Is a certificate of analysis provided upon receipt if applicable?
- All the inspection checks should be recorded and signed by the person who received the goods. A receival stamp is a time saving method that may be used on the back of each received invoice to record the above details;
- If rejections are made, these also need to be documented;
- Move to chilled, frozen or ambient storage without delay;
- If any items are to be rejected but not immediately returned, they must be clearly labelled and stored at the appropriate temperature in a designated Hold area. Forward the details of any rejected items to the appropriate management staff. A Supplier Non-Compliance Form may be used to document this information.

Process Control Management: Storage
It is important to consider the staff who are involved with the monitoring of storage critical limits. They must be competent in all food safety related activities involved, and must be of sound ability to make objective judgements. Hazards present may include Chemicals, Foreign Objects and Pathogenic Micro-organisms.

Perishable foods not being utilised immediately must be stored in an appropriate freezer, under refrigeration or in a dry storage area. Stock must be rotated using a first in first out policy to ensure that older stock is used before new stock. All dates of stock that is being rotated should be checked whist rotating to ensure their capability to remain safe.

Storage related Critical Limits may include:
- Safe temperature limits as nominated by relevant legislation;
- Recommended storage shelf life of foods as defined by manufacturer’s specifications.

It is generally considered good practice for the temperatures of refrigerated equipment to be monitored and recorded at least daily. All monitoring must be officiated by appropriate staff, and such staff should be accountable for the completion and accuracy of the recorded results.

Refrigeration technicians should be available on call at all times to provide any maintenance required to guarantee to correct operation of equipment. Technicians must have easy access to the specific technical details of all refrigerated equipment. Any alterations to technical configurations required for temporary or permanent repairs must be recorded immediately, and considered for addition to the specific technical details.

The calibration of all refrigerated equipment must be considered as an element of scheduled preventative maintenance, and should be completed and recorded accordingly.

If any refrigeration equipment is found to be out of acceptable operational temperatures, the appropriate management should be informed, and action must be taken immediately to ensure the safety and suitability of the foodstuffs involved.

Process Control Management: Preparation
The types of preparation and Process Control Management required are generally dependant on the following:
- The scope and purpose of the food processing business and the capabilities of staff;
- The shelf life of the foodstuffs produced;
- The origin and the correct and appropriate storage of the materials used for food processing;
- The equipment and facilities available for processing.

Preparation related Critical Limits may include:
- Personal hygiene;
- Cross contamination prevention;
- Time allowed for preparation;
- Safe processing and preparation of foods at ambient temperature and hygienic food preparation procedures.

It is advantageous in any food business to have areas designated specifically for food preparation. In such areas, it is of prime importance to regard the risk of cross contamination as the most important factor.

The preparation of raw and cooked foods can be managed by:
- Ensuring that food processing areas are sufficiently cleaned and sanitised before the preparation of raw or cooked foods;
- Ensuring that time limits for preparing perishable products are adhered to;
- Ensuring that all equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces used for processing is cleaned and sanitised prior to and after use. The details of the cleaning and sanitising requirements of all equipment should be found in the appropriate section of your food safety program;
- Ensuring that all nominated food and personal hygiene requirements are met regarding the processing of foodstuffs;
- Ensuring that cross contamination does not occur, and all relevant measures are taken to prevent such an occurrence. Utensils or equipment used should only be used once for a specific task, and cleaning and sanitising of the involved equipment should be initiated between different tasks. For example, utensils and equipment must be changed or cleaned and sanitised between handling raw and cooked product).

Thawing Foods
Thawing must be conducted under controlled conditions to ensure food safety or quality risks do not impact upon the foods involved.

The two most acceptable methods for thawing food items are as follows:
- Placing frozen items into a suitably cleaned and sanitised container, and storing them under refrigeration for a timeframe that facilitates appropriate controlled tempering. The container used must be of size and structure that it will catch any liquid that escapes the item during defrosting. The shelf life of a defrosted product is generally different to the shelf life when frozen and advice from the manufacturer should be sought on the shelf life once defrosted. Products that have been thawed using this method must not under any circumstance be refrozen unless they have undergone further processing to control potential pathogen growth or toxin formation;
- Placing frozen items into a suitably cleaned and sanitised container and allowing cool running water to flow around them until they are sufficiently defrosted. This method should only be used for items that will thaw within an appropriate time frame. It should also be taken into account that items that will lose quality due to water interference may not be suited to this method. Water should not be permitted to enter the packaging of the item purposefully, and all defrosted items should be drained of any “intruding” water before further use. Products that have been thawed using this method must not under any circumstance be refrozen unless they have undergone further processing to control potential pathogen growth or toxin formation.

Food Preparation Time Control
It is important to limit the timeframe in which potentially hazardous food items are exposed to ambient or operating area temperatures, unless such areas are specifically temperature controlled. 30 minutes exposure at ambient temperature is a generally accepted as a suitable timeframe during food preparation for food items to be out of temperature controlled storage prior to further processing. Good Manufacturing Practices constitute that foods must not be subjected to excess time within the temperature danger zone when processing or prior to cooking.

Food Preparation Storage Requirements
- All food items should be stored in appropriate containers;
- Storage containers must be cleaned and sanitised before use, must include appropriate labelling and be stored under refrigeration where applicable;
- Items removed from original packaging must be re-packaged and stored in a manner that facilitates protection from contamination and excessive microbiological growth;
- A pro-active FIFO policy must be followed when storing or re-storing containers of foods in designated storage areas. Should any item of risk be found without labelling, it must be assessed to verify its safety and suitability to be used. Failing any verification activity should result in such an item being hygienically disposed of;
- Hot foods being chilled should be covered sufficiently to reduce the risk of contamination. Items such as plastic wrap may be used to cover a food item once the temperature of the item has dropped enough for the plastic wrap not to melt upon contact;
- Food handling staff should apply diligence regarding the continual cleanliness of food storage areas consistent with other housekeeping schedules.

Cutting Boards and Containers
Depending on the scope and purpose of your food business operation, you may have adopted a colour coded cutting board system to reduce the risk of cross contamination. The standard colours for these systems vary from region to region. For example, some colour coding systems specify the following colour and uses: Green: fruits and vegetables, Red: raw meats, Yellow: raw poultry, Brown: cooked meats and poultry, Blue: raw seafood, White: dairy and baked goods.

There are many different variations for use of the coloured board systems as nominated above. All are generally acceptable as long as all boards are cleaned and sanitised appropriately between each use. It is important to also consider the contamination issues presented by raw and cooked foods though differing varieties and species of animal products. Boards must still be changed and cleaned and sanitised between uses for differing types of items.

Requirements for cutting Board Safety and Hygiene include:
- Cutting boards should be stabilised prior to use by the use of a damp cloth or other non-slip material placed between the work surface and the base of the board;
- After the use of each board and each variety of food, the area immediately surrounding the board should be cleaned and sanitised using appropriate chemicals;
- Chlorine soaks using recommended concentrations of chemicals for boards may prove beneficial to the sanitation process.

Cutting boards can generally be stored in either of two ways:
- Air-dried to reduce contact contamination and separated vertically from other contact surfaces on the cutting surface of the board. A common option is to store cutting boards within a chiller refrigerated area;
- In a regularly changed and maintained chlorine bath.

As with the colour coding principles defined above for cutting boards, many businesses also apply similar rules for use of storage tubs and crates. For example, White: product, blue: rework, red: general waste, green: food waste or animal feed, grey: maintenance tools.

Process Control Management: Cooking
It is important to consider the staff who are involved with the monitoring of cooking critical limits. They must be competent in all food safety related activities involved, and must be of sound ability to make objective judgements. Hazards present may include Chemicals, Foreign Objects and Pathogenic Micro-organisms.

It is generally recognised that food is cooked to increase palatability, to tenderise, to change the character of the food, for cultural reasons or just to make it hot. Another important reason to cook some foods is to destroy organisms that cause disease. Proper cooking is often the “critical control point” in preventing food borne disease outbreaks.

Cooking related Critical Limits may include:
- Personal hygiene;
- Cross contamination prevention;
- Appropriate time and temperature requirements for specific foods.

 End of Cooking Temperature Checks
- The staff member responsible for the cooking of the product should generally check the end cooking temperature;
- A temperature check of the product should be carried out using a calibrated, sanitised probe or infrared thermometer;
- The core temperature of each product should be recorded. If it is not a product that has a defined core, such as a wet dish, a temperature taken from where the product has been stirred through should give an objective reading;
- The end cooking temperature of reheated products must conform to that which is recommended as part of cook chill systems.

Process Control Management: Cooling
It is important to consider the staff who are involved with the monitoring of cooling critical limits. They must be competent in all food safety related activities involved, and must be of sound ability to make objective judgements. Hazards present may include Chemicals, Foreign Objects and Pathogenic Micro-organisms.

Cooling processes are implemented not only to control potential microbiological pathogen growth but also to ensure the quality of finished products.

Cooling related Critical Limits may include:
- Core temperature of product as a maximum nominated time and temperature. For example, a potentially hazardous food items may be cooled down from above than 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit to less than 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit within the first two hours, then from 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit to less than 5 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit within the next four hours.

The application of a “dual” time and temperature limit is based upon the growth profiling of pathogenic micro-organisms. For example, pathogenic micro-organisms may grow easier at temperatures between 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit than between 21 degrees Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 5 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is recommended that nominated time and temperature limits for cooling of potentially hazardous foods are structured and defined to meet regulatory specifications, and according to the composition of the products involved.

Process Control Management: Reheating
It is important to consider the staff who are involved with the monitoring of reheating critical limits. They must be competent in all food safety related activities involved, and must be of sound ability to make objective judgements. Hazards present may include Chemicals, Foreign Objects and Pathogenic Micro-organisms.

Foodstuffs should be reheated to temperatures that will kill pathogenic micro-organisms applicable to the food item, and intended consumer group of such foods. It is also important to consider that items should be held at specified temperatures for a minimum specified timeframe to ensure an appropriate pathogen kill step.

Reheating Temperature and Time Monitoring
Reheating temperature monitoring should be carried out at the end of the reheating process. Temperature checks usually involve a representative sampling of the batch of items being reheated. Only a trained staff member be should employed to complete sampling and recording of results due to the importance of a reheating task. An appropriate calibrated and sanitised temperature measuring device must be used to obtain core temperatures. The core temperature of each sample should be recorded. If the reheated item does not have a defined “core”, for example, a liquid product, a temperature taken from where the product has been stirred through should give an objective temperature reading.

Considerations for reheating temperature monitoring include:
- Final reheating temperature;
- The type of food;
- The start and finish times of reheating;
- The equipment and method used for reheating.

Items intended for reheating must be heated rapidly through the Temperature Danger Zone of between 5 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It is recommended that food for reheating be taken straight from refrigerated storage for reheating. Higher risk items may need to be subjected to higher temperatures for food safety requirements.

Process Control Management: Cook Chill Method
It is important to consider the staff who are involved with the monitoring of cook chill critical limits. They must be competent in all food safety related activities involved, and must be of sound ability to make objective judgements. Hazards present may include Chemicals, Foreign Objects and Pathogenic Micro-organisms.

The concept of Cook Chill catering has been used predominantly since the early 1970’s, but it was not until the middle of the 1980’s that this concept began to gather momentum within various areas of modern food industries. No matter what size a food business is, there are obvious advantages and benefits from using cook chill methods, especially regarding the requirement to maintain time and temperature controls in all areas of food production and delivery. With Cook Chill systems, there are no miracles; badly prepared and cooked food will be just as bad when regenerated some days later.

Foods correctly prepared and handled in a cook chill system will be impossible to distinguish from freshly cooked food. In many cases, the organoleptic benefits from some cook chill applications produce outcomes that are better than freshly prepared food.

In foodservice operations, the problem with most cook serve production kitchens is that there is a time lag between cooking an item and availability to the customer. During this time lag the food is kept hot for extended periods, which destroys the taste, colour and nutritional value of the food. When applied appropriately, a Cook Chill system will deliver a higher standard of foods than those held at hot temperatures for any timeframe.

The fundamentals of a best practice based cook chill system include:
- All food items should be cooked to a core temperature of at least 72 degrees Celsius or 162 degrees Fahrenheit and held at or above that temperature for a number of minutes prior to serving;
- Once cooked, food items should be portioned into shallow containers to facilitate cooling within an appropriate timeframe. This process should be completed within a suitable timeframe as soon as possible after cooking. From the completion of the cooking stage to commencement of the chilling cycle must not exceed a suitable nominated timeframe;
- As a general rule, food items should achieve a core temperature of at least 5 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit within 6 hours of entering the chiller;
- Once chilled, all food must be stored at a temperature of between 1 degree Celsius or 34 degrees Fahrenheit and 5 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit in a separate dedicated chilled area. At all stages of storage and distribution, appropriate temperature control must be maintained;
- Depending on the type of packaging used, the shelf life of chilled foods may vary.  Ongoing product and process validation should be completed and industry references should be obtained in order to ascertain the shelf life of a Cook Chill product;
- Food should not be removed from refrigeration for longer than 30 minutes prior to reheating. Foods should be regenerated to a core temperature of at least 72 degrees Celsius or 162 degrees Fahrenheit and held at or above that temperature for a number of minutes prior to serving;
- Once reheated, all leftover food should be hygienically disposed of.

Process Control Management: Hot and Cold Temperature Holding
It is important to consider the staff who are involved with the monitoring of hot and cold holding critical limits. They must be competent in all food safety related activities involved, and must be of sound ability to make objective judgements. Hazards present may include Chemicals, Foreign Objects and Pathogenic Micro-organisms.

Hot and cold temperature holding related Critical Limits may include:

Holding temperatures:
1.  -18 degrees Celsius or 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for frozen foods.
2.  5 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below for cold refrigerated items;
3.  60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above for hot items.

For all foods held under temperature control, Corrective actions must be pursued if temperatures are not correct.

Monitoring of foods involved with hot and cold temperature holding should be carried out several times during the duration of the anticipated “holding” timeframe. Temperature checks usually involve a representative sampling of the batch of items being held at temperature. Only a trained and authorised staff member should be able to complete sampling and recording of results due to the importance of this task. An appropriate calibrated and sanitised temperature measuring device must be used to obtain temperatures. The core temperature of each sample should be recorded. If the product doesn’t have a defined core, such as a liquid item, the temperature should be taken at a point where the product has been stirred through should give an objective reading.

If your food business supplies foodstuffs manufactured to a customer’s specifications, it is important to consider any specific Food Microbiology Management Development requirements in relation to their items.


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