FDA perspective on “Seek and Destroy”

The development and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signals a concerted effort to improve food safety in FDA inspected plants, and implement some of the same structure and oversight as seen in USDA inspected facilities.

In January of 2017, the FDA released an updated guidance document outlining their guidelines for Listeria control in ready-to-eat (RTE) food processing facilities. This new document “supports ongoing efforts by industry and government agencies to reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) in RTE foods. L. mono, a pathogen that can grow even in cold, refrigerated environments, is particularly harmful to the elderly, pregnant women and/or their pregnancy, and those who are immunocompromised.” [1]

The document, meant to expand upon the requirements for management of risk, and development of preventative controls outlined in FSMA, covers risk analysis and encourages food processors to expand their environmental monitoring programs. “Industry best practices and the “seek and destroy” approach used by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been incorporated into the draft guidance.” [1]

Adam Borger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Food Research Institute, spoke of the new guidance, saying, “I am a proponent of what the FDA is recommending in their draft guidance regarding sampling of food-contact surfaces for Listeria genus.  I feel that giving food processors the ability to sample food-contact surfaces for Listeria genus without absolutely having to place all product on hold until the result is returned, will encourage a more aggressive sampling plan to find and eliminate Listeria and niches where the microbe may persist.” [2]

Multiple tools can be used in a robust environmental monitoring program. Technologies such as Sterilex’s Indicon™ Gel can be used to rapidly detect biofilm harborage niches and track sources of contamination in seek and destroy applications. While traditional swabbing methods can be used to verify the absence of organisms on a “swab-able” surface, Indicon Gel can be used to identify harborage points in areas only a gel can reach, and provide rapid, visual results in a cost-effective manner*.

  1. https://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm536716.htm
  2. Borger, Adam C. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Food Research Institute. 26 May 2017

*The lack of a positive reaction from Indicon Gel does not guarantee that the surface is free from microorganisms.  Indicon Gel is not meant to take the place of routine microbial monitoring or organism-specific diagnostic tests.

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*Biofilm label claims approved for specific applications only. See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.
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