Mitigating against emerging foodborne pathogens
Current food safety legislation offers good coverage of established foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms, but it also needs to keep pace with evolving threats. Various emerging pathogens that could compromise food safety are gaining attention, and the industry is exploring ways to manage the risks they present.
Drive for change
One of these emerging pathogens is Arcobacter, which was only established as a genus in 1991, and belongs to the same family as Campylobacter. It is a zoonotic, so it causes infection in both animals and humans, and can pass from animals to humans. Products contaminated with Arcobacter have the potential to cause serious illness, so food businesses must be alert to the risks.
Arcobacter spp. have been isolated from a wide range of sources including meat, fish, drinking water, and plant-based foods. Various strains have been reported in the US, Italy, Spain, Australia, and Japan.
Infected individuals usually present with common gastrointestinal symptoms, but cases of bacteraemia, septicaemia, peritonitis, and endocarditis have also been recorded.
Technologies for pathogen detection and control
Food businesses need to take a proactive stance when it comes to identifying and managing the risk of foodborne pathogens. It’s advisable to keep one step ahead of legislation, especially for food categories at high risk of contamination.
With Arcobacter identified as an emerging problem, integration with existing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) activity should be considered. Rapid detection is vital, and several new and emerging technologies are available to support this, including next generation sequencing (NGS) and droplet digital Polymerase Chain Reaction (ddPCR).
Nevertheless, knowledge of new pathogens is only half the story. Controlling or eradicating them is often more challenging. Non-thermal and thermal technologies for this purpose are continuously developing, for instance Ultraviolet C (UVC) light treatment.
Risks posed by foodborne pathogens continue to evolve, but scientists are striving to develop new ways to counter the threat. Food companies that keep up with emerging pathogens and mitigating technologies will be best placed to take well-informed, proportionate steps to protect consumers.