3M outlines food safety evolution

3M's Petrifilm Plates first hit the food testing landscape in 1984, selling an estimated 2bn units since they debuted.

While food safety technology is constantly evolving, the need for speed and accuracy remains constant.

John Wadie, US marketing development manager for 3M Food Safety, told FoodProductionDaily the food industry has in the past few decades years seen dramatic changes thanks to globalization, changing diets, and increased consumer awareness of food safety.

These trends can create market opportunities, but it’s sometimes overlooked that they also put heavier demands on companies to take every precaution to mitigate potential problems,” he said. “Specifically, there is much more pressure on food companies to proactively maintain and manage stringent food safety procedures—consumers have much greater access to information about food safety issues and food borne illnesses and the advent of the new, globally-affecting laws and regulations such as the US’s Food Safety Modernization Act have established newer, enforceable standards.

Speed is key

Wadie said technology providers can lighten the load (and heavy obligations) placed on food safety professionals by increasing efficiency and speed.

An issue that weighs heavily on the minds of food processing industry executives is technician efficiency and fatigue,” he said. “It’s no secret time is money, and amidst competitive and economic pressures, food processors are always looking for ways to alleviate testing time and burdens in ways that don’t compromise results.

One of the ways 3M Food Safety and other food safety suppliers have made the lives of food safety staff easier, Wadie said, is stepping up the speed of testing results.

Over the past few decades we have not only seen more accurate means of detection introduced, but the time-to-result has been reduced by days, not just hours,” he told FPD.

Long-lasting technology

While the technology and products available for food safety laboratories are constantly evolving and changing, 3M’s Petrifilm Plates (used in food quality testing) have been in use for 30 years. The testing products have sold approximately 2bn units since they hit the scene in 1984 and are in use in more than 65 countries.

Wadie said the staying power of Petrifilm Plates can be attributed to ease of use, thanks in part to cutting the need for agar dishes. Also, he explained, the plates have stuck around because the company is constantly communicating with industry stakeholders to ensure they live up to regulatory and industry standards.

When industry sources have come to 3M with dilemmas, we’ve risen to the challenge,” he said. “For example, a client in the dairy industry worked alongside us to help bring about a special procedure involving our Petrifilm technology that tested lactic acid bacteria, a form of testing not mandated by government regulations but that can affect the final end-state food product and levels of customer satisfaction.”

Future food safety

Over the next three decadess, Wadie told FPD, food safety professionals should expect the evolution of analytical technology to continue.

The next 30 years will continue to bring faster and more accurate methods of testing as well as improvements to the preparation process,” he said. “With more time and innovation, it might be possible to simultaneously identify pathogens and bacteria within production lines as opposed to taking a separate step. I also can envision increased automation and digitalization around counting bacterial levels and the emergence of greater predictive modeling of food product quality and shelf life.”

3M manufactures a range of testing equipment and materials geared toward food safety and quality analysis. These include Petrifilm Plates, the Molecular Detection System for pathogen testing, Petrofilm Salmonella Express System, and Tecra VIA tests, as well as environmental hygiene monitoring and ultra-high-temperature testing.

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