Purac ingredient range tackles Listeria threat

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lactic acid Listeria monocytogenes Shelf life Bacteria

Purac claims to have developed a line of ingredients that can help
food makers meet new European Commission regulations on
microbiological criteria.

It says that its range of lactic acid and lactates are effective food ingredients that, among other functions, can control microorganisms in food products.

In addition to its range of lactic acid and lactate products, Purac has also developed several tools to assist food makers in achieving compliance with the new legislation.

It claims that the Opti.form Listeria control model can be used to predict mathematically the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in meat and poultry products.

As of January 2006, all food businesses must be in compliance with the new microbiological regulations. These lay down the microbiological criteria for certain microorganisms such as Listeria monocytogenes - in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods.

Although infections caused by Listeria are not as common as for salmonella, they can cause anything from diarrhoea to blood poisoning or meningitis, just as the bacterium can lead to miscarriages or cause disease in foetuses and newborns.

Cooking kills most of the L. monocytogenes cells that can grow at refrigeration temperature, but ready-to-eat products, such as fermented sausages, and smoked fish, are not always cooked by consumers before consumption.

And under the new legislation, which aims to harmonise and modernise microbiological criteria, food operators have primary responsibility for ensuring that the criteria are met. Standards have been set for certain bacteria, and other pathogens may be added in the future, following evaluations by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

As a result, many European food companies have undertaken extensive measures to ensure that all hygiene criteria are met throughout the production process and that food safety criteria are met throughout the shelf life of the product. It is here that Purac believes it can help.

Indeed, Purac claims to have carried out a great deal of research into shelf life and food safety. It believes that achieving an understanding of the physico-chemical characteristics of food products such as the concentration of preservatives - e.g. lactates is an important consideration.

Additional studies such as predictive mathematical modeling can also prove useful, and tests to investigate the ability of the microorganisms of concern to grow or survive throughout shelf life are also important weapons against contamination.

Lactic acid, a natural organic acid present in milk, meat, and beer, is used extensively by the food industry as a flavour agent, preservative, and acidity adjuster in foods. Applications also include improving dispersion and whipping properties in dry egg powder, cheese spreads and salad dressings.

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