• Lecithin Food

Soybean Lecithin and Salmonella Prevention Techniques

Phospholipid, chemically known as Phosphatidyl Choline, the main content of lecithin is an essential part of the food, pharmaceutical, animal feed, and cosmetics industry. It mainly functions as an emulsifier whose composition depends on the source from which it is isolated and extracted.

Plant-based lecithin can be isolated from the soybean, rapeseed, and sunflower seeds. However, the wider part of lecithin production is credited to soybeans. Sadly this plant source often becomes victim to the bacterial infestation of Salmonella typhi. 

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a rod-shaped bacterium that is a leading cause of Salmonellosis. The bacterium is a prevalent cause of global foodborne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, Salmonella infects 1.35 million individuals every year, resulting in 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in just the United States. Unfortunately, food becomes the source of all this catastrophe.

The bacterium isn’t only harmful to humans. Many domestic and wild animals are infected with Salmonella spp., with the bacterium usually residing in their gastrointestinal tracts and causing no evident symptoms of sickness.

Salmonella can enter your body through uncooked, raw meat or poultry, unpasteurized milk, raw vegetables, and seafood. Even cocoa beans and raw nuts can be contaminated with Salmonella if exposed to poor hygiene conditions.

Popular raw materials for confectionery and other food items, such as egg products, flours and starches, lecithin, and coconut, have also been reported to have the presence of Salmonella.

The bacterium flourishes in wet, warm settings such as drains, floors, and processing equipment once introduced into a food manufacturing environment.

Salmonella-contaminated foods may not appear or smell spoilt but can cause severe illnesses like high fever, unbearable headaches, vomiting, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhoea. Salmonella poisoning is especially dangerous for people who have weakened immune systems.

Salmonella in Soybean lecithin

Soybeans are a significant source of protein for poultry and cattle. However, it contains Salmonella serotypes linked to human foodborne disease outbreaks and may be responsible for introducing the bacterium in cattle and, resultantly, foods of animal origin. 

Meals and expellers (cakes) from the oil-crushing industry, such as soybean meals, are common sources of Salmonella contamination in animal feed.

Since soybean oil is also the raw material for the production of soybean lecithin, unhygienic practices can also lead to it being contaminated with Salmonella, transforming it into a food safety hazard for food and animal feed.

Soybeans usually become contaminated with Salmonella during harvest. When these contaminated soybeans go into the crushing plant, the by-product soybean meal is used in the animal feed and can infect the whole batch of it with Salmonella. 

Salmonella Prevention Techniques

This contamination can be controlled by a uniform HACCP plan for the soybean crushing plant. HACCP stands for hazard analysis critical control point. It’s a  food safety program used to avoid and control food hazards. The nature of these hazards can be biological, chemical, and physical, originating in raw materials, manufacturing processes, and surroundings.

A HAACP-based control program in a soybean crushing facility can help generate Salmonella-free soybean meal. This method is proposed as an efficient solution to reduce the danger of Salmonella exposure in animal feed mills and subsequent contamination of the animal feed chain.

The effectiveness of the HACCP program will support lowering the Salmonella contamination in the crushing plant's clean area. Ultimately, becoming the prime reason for the successful prevention of Salmonella in the end product.

Steps to Prevent Salmonella Contamination

Aside from following the HACCP plan in the crushing plant, plant managers must ensure the following to help in the prevention of Salmonella contamination:

The Workers Should be Free from Salmonella Infection

Make it compulsory to have the employees tested for Salmonella infection and, if positive, be barred from entering the plant until cured. They must also be taught to recognise potential sources of contamination. Necessary steps should be taken to implement sanitary practices and procedures to avoid Salmonella transmission in the facility.

Ensure Salmonella doesn't Enter the Processing Facility.

Have the incoming raw materials and ingredients tested and separated if Salmonella traces are found on them. Disinfect and clean all the tools and equipment, tools, after the crushing process is completed. And, implement effective pest control measures.

Strictly Follow Hygienic Practices

In a crushing plant, hygiene can be achieved through two different cleaning methods:

The first one is Wet Cleaning. It involves using detergents, disinfectants and other forms of cleaning agents along with water. Regulated wet cleaning with little use of water can be conducted, in case water is not freely available. 

After controlled wet cleaning, dry the equipment completely as any residual moisture can increase the risk of Salmonella and cross-contamination.

Dry Cleaning is the second method. In dry cleaning, disinfectants are evaporated rapidly without the use of any water. 

Additional Steps to Consider after a Cleanup

Once the plat has been cleaned using any of the two methods discussed, take additional precautions. Some of those may be: 

  1. Avoid using high-pressure hoses as they help spread the bacterium
  2. Clean equipment in physically separated areas and especially away from the production plant
  3. Avoid splashing and aerosol the contamination of product-contact surfaces
  4. Distribute the production into raw and processed food handling zones
  5. Use colour-coding schemes to separate regions for varying levels of hygiene control
  6. Maintain maximum hygiene of equipment at all times to avoid bacteria growth

Create a Monitoring Program

Create a monitoring program to warrant a hundred per cent prevention. Run a routine Salmonella sampling programme at the facility. An environmental monitoring programme or EMP will evaluate the efficacy of the overall hygiene measures. Monitor the environment for transient infections and assist in mitigating potential harbourage and growth niches. Finally, include cleaning supplies in your environmental monitoring program. 

Conclusion

Salmonella occurrence in lecithin can give rise to a food safety risk as lecithin is a major ingredient in confections, pharmaceuticals, baking items and other edible products. Recent contamination occurred in the popular Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut’s plant in Wieze, Belgium, and the company had to hold its production for several weeks.

Avoiding such problems can mean additional costs and hassle for most manufacturers. That’s why we suggest sourcing lecithin from companies that are Pro Terra certified and meet the EU quality requirements and checks. 

LECITEIN is one such proud supplier of plant-based lecithin. All our products are always tested for any form of contamination before packaging as we deal in only the highest quality lecithin. For more details, connect with us via email at [email protected].

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