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Survey Shows Excellent Microbiological Profiles for Milled Cereal Grains

April 19, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 19, 2007 – In a scientific paper based on data submitted by members of the North American Millers’ Association (NAMA), microbiological specifications and lot acceptance criteria were shown to not be necessary for milled grain products. The paper, “The Role of Microbiological Guidelines in the Production and Commercial Use of Milled Cereal Grains – A Practical Approach for the 21st Century,” was authored by Dr. William H. Sperber and NAMA’s Microbiology Working Group. It was published in the April 2007 issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

NAMA members provided 13,400 sample results for the survey. The survey included tests results for aerobic plate counts, yeasts, molds, coliforms, E. coli and Salmonella for five milled grains – wheat, corn, oats, whole wheat, and durum. The samples were reviewed to assess current trends. This is the first comprehensive report on microbiological profiles that includes of North American dry milled corn, oats, whole wheat and durum. The survey documented an extremely low incidence of salmonellae and historically low microbiological profiles of the five products surveyed. For example, the aerobic plate, yeast, mold, and coliform counts in wheat flour decreased by 59%, 85%, 73%, and 50%, respectively, in comparison to earlier published results. The incidence of salmonellae in wheat flour, already very low in earlier reports, declined by an additional 87%.

Milled cereal grains have a long history of safety and wholesomeness. This outstanding record is attributable to the rigorous sanitary procedures followed in the mills and to the baking, frying, or cooking of milled cereal grains before consumption.

Modern management systems for the control of food quality and safety, i.e., good agricultural practices (GAPs), good manufacturing practices (GMPs), and hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP), together with the excellent microbiological profiles, have eliminated the need for microbiological specifications and lot acceptance criteria for milled grains. Instead of these specifications, the paper recommends using microbiological monitoring guidelines, such as the periodic testing of aerobic plate counts and mold counts, to verify compliance with the requirements of food quality and food safety management systems.

NAMA is the trade association representing 48 companies that operate 170 wheat, oat and corn mills in 38 states and Canada. Their collective production capacity exceeds 160 million pounds of product each day, more than 95 percent of the total industry production.

Dr. William Sperber, senior corporate microbiologist at Cargill, Inc. and secretariat for Safe Supply of Affordable Food Everywhere, Inc., is a 43-year expert on food safety. He has served on numerous worldwide food safety initiatives, including the World Health Organization Expert Consultation on Risk Assessment, the International Life Sciences Institute Listeria Expert Working Group, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, and the U.S. delegation to the UN Codex Committee on Food Hygiene.

 

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