One of the most recent and highly profiled U.S. dairy incidents occurred during the fall of 2013 and involved a New York-based Greek yogurt company. Hundreds of consumers fell sick after they had purchased and eaten yogurt tainted by mold. While no one became seriously ill, and the mold discovered was not of a foodborne pathogen variety (salmonella, E. coli etc.), reports of gastrointestinal ailments among consumers prompted the company to remove and destroy all questionable inventory. Besides costing money, the mishap took a toll on the firm’s previously admired and trusted brand and manufacturing processes, respectively, as many consumers took to Twitter and Facebook to express their concern and disapproval.
The mold that tainted this company’s products is one commonly found around foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy, Mocur circinelloids, and can be a culprit in spoilage when not immediately identified and removed. Some folks questioned whether or not it was actually Mocur circinelloids that caused people to fall ill, but the subsequently filled FDA report stated that no other bacterial culprit was found inside the Idaho facility.
Regardless of whether or not another organism was at the core of the contamination, the entire ordeal stands as another reminder of how fiercely rapid a gap in a company’s manufacturing process can lead to public fury and governmental scrutiny, especially in today’s world of digitally instantaneous, consumer blowback. But this latest example is perhaps even more disconcerting than most because it involved the molding of yogurt, a product that is inherently, well, moldy.
Crudely speaking, yogurt is created by adding bacteria to heated milk, and the entire process, whether undertaken within a factory or household kitchen, requires precision both in terms of combining the ingredients and monitoring the mixture’s temperature during heating and cooling stages. The FDA, consistent in its dedication to oversee the application of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), provides 21 CFR Part 131 as a blueprint for producing all types of milk, cream and yogurt. The document, which contains guidelines on general pasteurization procedures and the production and labeling of specific varieties of aforementioned dairy products, begins its section on non-fat, low-fat and regular yogurt by defining core expectations for the base product:
Yogurt, before the addition of bulky flavors, contains not less than 3.25 percent milkfat and not less than 8.25 percent milk solids not fat, and has a titratable acidity of not less than 0.9 percent, expressed as lactic acid. The food may be homogenized and shall be pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized prior to the addition of the bacterial culture. Flavoring ingredients may be added after pasteurization or ultra-pasteurization. To extend the shelf life of the food, yogurt may be heat treated after culturing is completed, to destroy viable microorganisms.
Beyond listing the required milkfat parameters and acidity level for regular yogurt, this excerpt mentions two activities predicated on proper environmental monitoring. Temperature plays a critical role in heating and cooling, and any increase in humidity can act as a bellwether for deteriorating ambient conditions and possible bacterial growth. Monitoring these variables can prevent production failures, and customizable, cloud-based monitoring systems like Temperature@lert’s Cellular Edition with Sensor Cloud are more than just technical instruments; they’re autonomous, comprehensive solutions to problems that once seemed unavoidable.
Even without being presumptuous about a yogurt company’s past oversight, one can deduce that dangerous windows of exposure exist during dairy manufacturing processes and deploying preventative safeguards to ensure a product’s quality and condition isn’t just operationally and financially prudent, it’s also organizationally principled.
Chris Monaco, Covert Content Creator
As a man of many achievements, Chris Monaco is Temperature@lert’s newest Covert Content Creator. Hailing from Beverly, MA, Chris is armed with a trifecta of degrees, from a BFA (Maine at Farmington), to an MFA (Lesley University), all the way up to his most recent achievement; the coveted MBA from Suffolk University. Outside of his academic travels, Chris has added many international stamps to his passport, including: Seoul, Korea and Prague, Czech Republic, wherein Chris taught English as a Second Language to dozens of international students. His hobbies include writing, skiing, traveling, reading, and the world of politics. His personal claims to fame include two cross-country car trips through the U.S. and a summer’s worth of courageously guiding whitewater rafting trips. Chris’ ideal temperature is 112°F, the optimal temperature for a crisp shave.