For producers of spices and seasonings, preventing microbial contamination can pose a complex problem. The American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) makes available multiple resources on their website to help firms keep these low-moisture commodities free from pathogens and other bacteria. Three beneficial publications are, the “Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Guide for Spices (2015),” the “HACCP Guide for Spices and Seasonings (2015),” and the guidance document, “Clean Safe Spices” (2017).
The GMP Guide reads, “(the) safety, quality, and consistency of a spice product may be compromised by one or all of the many processes it undergoes between the farm and table…. (t)his document is intended to serve as a resource for spice companies in providing safe, quality products to their customers. Members of the spice trade are encouraged to use this document together with other sources of information to develop and implement programs that assure the spices they sell meet the highest internal, regulatory, and consumer standards.”
The GMP document is broken down into sections including, Facility Standards, Product Control, Personal Hygiene & Pathogen Control, and Food Safety and Quality Management System. Each of these sections has multiple subsections addressing more specific topics such as Allergen Control, Sanitation, and Pest Control.
The ASTA HACCP Guide serves as, “an analytical tool that enables management to introduce and maintain a cost-effective, ongoing food safety program…(and) the systematic assessment of the steps involved in a food manufacturing operation and the identification of those steps that are critical to the safety of the product.”
The guide focuses heavily on Preventive Controls aligning with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements.
The HACCP guide utilizes the seven principles of HACCP to provide a systematic process for addressing the identification and prevention of microbiological, chemical and physical hazards that may affect product quality and safety. The document contains sections on identifying risks, implementing a HACCP plan, and proper documentation.
The “Clean, Safe Spices” guidance document combines many principles of the GMP and HACCP guides and targets issues specific to spices and seasonings. The guide takes a “farm-to-fork’ approach and includes recommendations on preventing, testing for, and eliminating Salmonella and other threats traditionally known to affect spices and seasonings.
One activity each of these resources advocates is a robust environmental monitoring program. While not discounting product testing, the value of maintaining and verifying the cleanliness of the production, storage, and transportation environments remains a useful tool in preventing microbial contamination of ingredients and products. Q Laboratories can assist you in designing and implementing a practical, cost-effective environmental monitoring plan combining pathogen screening with spoilage organism testing to provide peace of mind to you and those who purchase your products.