CDC expands use of Whole Genome Sequencing in Foodborne Illness

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) provides insight into the genetic fingerprint of a pathogen by sequencing the chemical building blocks that make up its DNA and is increasingly being employed in food safety efforts. Since 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regularly turned to WGS to better understand foodborne pathogens, including identifying the nature and source of microbes that contaminate food and cause outbreaks of foodborne illness.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the use of whole genome sequencing to monitor for outbreaks of Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and coli that are commonly transmitted through food and animal contact has expanded to 38 states and two cities. This data is reported in the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Investment Map, which shows early progress by states to combat antibiotic resistance. This year’s Antibiotic Resistance Investment Map features more than 170 state-reported successes, including rapidly identifying and containing rare and concerning resistant germs to protect communities. Each state reported multiple successes.

You can learn more about CDC’s AR Solutions Initiative and ongoing work to combat antibiotic resistance at


© 2018 Keller and Heckman LLP.

FDA Discloses Method for Classifying Food Facilities as "High Risk" Under FSMA

The National Law Review published an article regarding FDA High Risk Food Facilities Classification Methods written by Lynn C. Tyler, M.S.Nicolette R. Hudson and Hae Park-Suk of Barnes & Thornburg LLP:

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed by President Obama in January 2011, requires FDA to inspect food facilities on different time tables depending on whether a facility is classified as “high risk” or not. High-risk facilities must be inspected at least once within the first five years after the enactment of the FSMA and once every three years thereafter. Non-high risk facilities must be inspected at least once within the first seven years after the enactment of the FSMA and once every five years thereafter.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently disclosed the method it intends to follow to classify food facilities as high risk or non-high risk under the FSMA. The agency first noted that the FSMA set forth six risk factors to be considered in making this determination:

  • The known safety risks of the food manufactured, processed, packed or held at the facility
  • The compliance history of the facility
  • The facility’s hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls (HARBPC)
  • Whether the food at the facility meets the criteria for priority to detect intentional adulteration in imported food
  • Whether the food at the facility has received certain certifications
  • Other criteria identified by Health and Human Services

FDA then noted that for FY 2011-13 the classification decision will be based primarily on the first two factors and according to the following algorithms:

  • If a facility manufactures food categories associated with foodborne outbreaks AND class I recalls (reasonable probability of serious adverse health consequences or death), it is high risk
  • If a facility manufactures food categories associated with foodborne outbreaks OR class I recalls AND it has not been inspected within the last five years, it is high risk
  • Facilities with a checkered compliance history (three or more inspections resulting in Voluntary Action Indicated findings or one or more resulting in Official Action Indicated findings within the last five years) are high risk

FDA stated that it plans to modify and adjust these criteria in the future as it develops data on some of the FSMA criteria and for other reasons. It also reserved the right to inspect a facility more frequently when necessary in its judgment.


“Pascalization” Provides a New Alternative for Food Preservation

Recently in The National Law Review an article regarding Food Preservation by Matthew B. Eugster of Varnum LLP:

Varnum LLP


Pascalatization, also known as high-pressure processing (HPP), is a procedure for subjecting food to extreme water pressure (typically 40,000 to 80,000 PS) inside pressure chambers.  The extreme pressures used in the Pascalization process kills dangerous bacteria, molds and viruses without crushing or destroying the food.  Because no heat or chemical use is required, food can be preserved without cooking or altering the texture or flavor of foods.  With increasing “pressure” (pun intended) on the food industry to comply with increasing food safety standards and reduce chemical use, pascalization may provide a viable alternative for preserving foods.  The food processing industry has begun to take notice, and use of this technology is expected to increase.

© 2012 Varnum LLP