Paper shows no need for microbiological specifications

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — Microbiological specifications and lot acceptance criteria are not necessary for milled grain products, according to a scientific paper based on data submitted by members of the North American Millers’ Association. The paper, "The Role of Microbiological Guidelines in the Production and Commercial Use of Milled Cereal Grains — A Practical Approach for the 21st Century," was published in the April issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

Dr. William H. Sperber, senior corporate microbiologist for Cargill and secretariat for Safe Supply of Affordable Food Everywhere, Inc., and NAMA’s Microbiology Working Group served as authors of the paper.

Members of NAMA provided 13,400 sample results. Test results covered aerobic plate counts, yeasts, molds, coliforms, E. coli and Salmonella for five milled grains: wheat, corn, oats, whole wheat and durum.

The survey documented extremely low incidence of salmonellae and historically low microbiological profiles of the five grains. The aerobic plate, yeast, mold and coliform counts in wheat flour decreased by 59%, 85%, 73% and 50%, respectively, in comparison to earlier published results. The incidence of salmonellae in wheat flour declined by 87%.

Modern management systems for the control of food quality and safety have eliminated the need for microbiological specifications and lot acceptance for criteria for milled grains, according to the scientific paper. Good agricultural practices (GAPs), good manufacturing practices (GAPs), hazard analysis and critical control point programs (HACCP) and microbiological profiles were given as examples of modern management systems.

Instead of microbiological specifications, the paper recommends using microbiological monitoring guidelines, such as the periodic testing of aerobic plate counts and mold counts, to verify compliance with the requirements of food quality and food safety management systems.

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