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The process of packaging and food hygiene – EHEC and the aftermath
In May, while it was still uncertain how the causative organism got to the people, it was suspected that the suspicious vegetables also could have been contaminated during transportation or during the packaging process. The packaging industry however was quickly able to rule out their products being the origin of the disease, since they always meet the highest standards of hygiene. According to the union “Vollpappe-Kartonagen” the solid fiber and corrugated boards are heated in the production process, so that all kinds of E.coli get deadened. In addition, further reducing the risk of an infection, the cardboard is used but one time for the transportation. Previous to the recycling process the cardboard is likewise exposed to temperature above 100 degrees Celsius.
„We regularly test for E.coli“ Euro Pool reported about their synthetic returnable crates. „As a pure precautionary measure we assigned the labs to raise the number of current bacteriological tests as well.” Through a sufficient washing at a minimum of 60 degrees, special chemicals and high pressure the removal of possible E.coli from the returnable crates is guaranteed. In a special test, crates, deliberately infected with viruses, were clean after washing. For packaging the same applies as for hands: frequent and thorough washing helps.
During the E.coli outbreak the German producer organizations of fruits and vegetables had not only tested their food for a possible contamination, but amongst other things they voluntarily took samples out of cold storages, reusable packages, non returnable cardboards and washing water, all of them being E.coli-free. Furthermore prevails: „A transmittal of E.coli bacteria via packaging of groceries or via different multi-stage transmission paths is very unlikely“, nutritionist Claudia Thienel explicates. Those who wanted to be absolutely sure during the E.coli outbreak reverted to processed products, cans and vegetables from the glass count that are safe regarding the bacteria. Also industrially manufactured and packaged fruit and vegetables juices are always heat-treated and for this reason harmless. Even ready-made salads are heated and packaged sterile.
German agricultural minister Ilse Aigner considers the actual supervision of foods in Germany to be sufficient. She does not deem more control or a better product identification necessary. After all it has been the backtracking of the cion delivery in Germany and other EU-states by the German public authority and the Task Force of the European agency for food safety that led to the Fenugreek seed. Admittedly the Federal Office for risk-rating recommends the public authority to uncover the means of supply of Fenugreek and to take the charges off the market.
The in-between-sellers are to be examined to exclude cross-contamination of other types of seeds and charges.
A lot of consumers still mistrust fresh food. In the beginning of July the demand for vegetables was up to 40% lower than before the E.coli outbreak. Often products have been dispensed for rock-bottom prices and below the production value. The consumers demand hygienic safety for the production and processing of foods. According to an online-survey of the Nielsen Company three quarters of the Germans see the producers left with the responsibility. The microbiological supervision by nutrition laboratories, new and fast tests but also enhancements in food industry, such as safe packaging, belong to the favored measures.
Experts from the institute for hygiene and biotechnology at the Hohenstein institutes in Bönnigheim developed a novel germinal rapid detection test for enterogerms, to which the E.coli can be counted. With it, it is possible to locally estimate the microbiological contamination of water or the surface, without the need of laboratory examinations that can take days. The test is especially interesting for the control of surfaces in food-processing enterprises, in food trade and in gastronomy, where disclosure, if the germ contamination is lying above a critical value, can be provided within a few hours. Project manager Gregor Hohn and his researchers want to enhance the test further. „At the moment we are working to configure the rapid test independently of the temperatures so that it will be also operable in hot regions of the world without having to use a cool chain“, says Hohn. Especially there the need of hygiene examinations is exceptionally big because of the lacking of laboratory capacities.
The responsibility for healthy food does not only lie with the producers, but also with the fabricators and the consumers. But people need help to realize that. According to a recent study, the consumer information on the packaging of fruits and vegetables is - till now - inadequate. The EHI Retail Institute and GS1 Germany analyzed the packaging of 2100 products and found out, that less than one percent of the fruit and vegetable offered at the supermarket, of which two thirds are by now packed, feature storing and transportation details. The existing consumer information such as „store frigid and dry“ are too vague and leave plenty of room for interpretation. In fact unified, standardised information, how products should be transported from the supermarket shelf to the fridge and how they should be stored till consumption, is needed.
The process of packaging and food hygiene – EHEC and the aftermath - www.europoolsystem.com
The process of packaging and food hygiene – EHEC and the aftermath - www.hohenstein.de