Raw beef patty, food safety
Correctly using ingredients may shield meat and poultry processors’ products from pathogens.

CHICAGO — In 2015, 902 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported in the United States. This resulted in 15,202 illnesses, 950 hospitalizations, 15 deaths and 20 food recalls, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (C.D.C.) and Prevention. Seeded vegetables were the No. 1 food category associated with outbreak illnesses, followed by pork, which was responsible for 924 illnesses from 19 outbreaks. Chicken had more outbreaks (22), while it was a comparatively quiet year for beef-related outbreaks.

“The C.D.C. attributes three primary modes of failure for all foodborne disease outbreaks,” said Roger Maehler, senior director of seasoning research and development for Newly Weds Foods. “The first is contamination, from post-cook cross contamination or the failure of decontamination. Then there’s proliferation, which is almost exclusively from non-compliant cold or hot holding. And lastly there’s survival, which is almost exclusively from non-compliant cooking processes.”

Many processors focus on decontamination of the carcass, as it makes sense to start with the cleanest possible raw materials. Cleaning is often achieved by using inexpensive chemical process aids that are not declared on ingredient statements. Decontamination is also important in order to meet federal guidelines and performance standards.

“While this approach is a good start, processors’ preventative measures cannot stop here,” Mr. Maehler said. “Decontaminating process aids are incapable of delivering completely safe ready-to-eat (R.-T.-E.) products. By definition and regulatory requirement, these process aids cannot have any downstream functionality with regard to limiting growth or ensuring destruction when cooked.”