Purac claims that the new web version of its listeria control software can reduce food product development time by two to three months, saving costs as well as indicating the presence of any harmful pathogens.
The predictive Listeria Control Model was designed to accelerate time-to-market by cutting the cost and duration of research and development.
“For a product with a 50-day shelf life, the food manufacturer will normally carry out three shelf life tests over a period of nine or 10 months,” marketing director and former innovation director Edwin Bontenbal told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“This tool shortens product development time to five to six months, an average reduction of two or three months.”
To test for pathogens, manufacturers describe the food product by entering parameters such as Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride content, as well as the storage temperature and moisture content.
The software uses the data to generate a "best fit" line by connecting the most probable Listeria counts for every point in time to predict Listeria growth for the specific food characteristics.
By taking into account variations between food product batches, the technology simulates "worst case scenarios" where Listeria growth is highest.
“It is important to watch out for the growth of Listeria because the fatality of Listeria poisoning is very high; there is a 25-30% chance of death,” said Bontenbal. “It is especially dangerous to the elderly and pregnant women.”
The online aspect of the software is very important, he added, because users always have access to the newest technology.
“A web interface allows us to always provide the most recent software,” Botenbal said. “Some people use models from 2003 or 2005, which are too old and haven’t been updated."
The software, which went live earlier this week and is available on Purac's website, also includes a PDF report generator, meaning that reports can be sent directly to email addresses.
Currently, the software is available in English because the majority of users are in Europe and North America. Food manufacturers in Asia are not so focused on looking out for Listeria because the shelf life of food is shorter, meaning less risk of the pathogen causing harm to human health, Bontenbal said.
In 2008, Europe’s food safety watchdog urged food manufacturers to watch out for listeria contamination during packaging, preparation of food, warning that listeria was on the rise. The number of human cases of the disease increased 8.6 per cent in the EU from 1,427 incidents in 2005 to 1,583 in 2006.
Symptoms in humans vary, ranging from flu and diarrhoea to serious infections such as septicaemia and meningoencephalitis. In pregnant women the infection can spread to the foetus which may be born severely ill or can even die in the uterus.
According to EU legislation, L. monocytogenes must not be present in levels above 100 cfu/g during the shelf life of a food product