Danièle Sohier (PhD), is the Global Scientific Affairs Senior Manager for Microbiology at Thermo Fisher, and President Elect of AOAC International for 2023-2024.

Danièle coordinates collaboration with governing bodies, research organizations, laboratory and food safety managers. She is honored to support global food safety and public health, and therefore she serve in multiple activities and working groups within AOAC, ISO and MicroVal.

Danièle Sohier

Despite strict food safety regulations and robust testing regimes, Salmonella finds a way – as demonstrated by a number of recorded outbreaks over the last 12 months.

In December, for example, Food Safety News reported that almost 200 people in nine countries had fallen ill after consuming ready-to-eat chicken products. Of these, 19 were hospitalized, five with septicaemia, and one died.1

We know that food testing laboratories take their responsibility to screen their products for potentially dangerous pathogens seriously. But with so much on the line, from public health to brand reputation, we can never be too careful.

That’s why we’re taking you back to basics with our five top tips for Salmonella prevention, based on what we’ve learnt from recent outbreaks.

1. Hygienic design

Effective screening has to be based on solid foundations, meaning hygienic design is a prerequisite to robust Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programmes.

Designing facilities so that all settings, fixtures, and fittings are freely accessible and easy to clean will minimize risk from the onset. 

2. Contamination can happen anywhere

It’s important to remember that contamination can happen at any stage of the production process and is in no way restricted to meat products. For example, in the past couple of years, there have been multiple Salmonella outbreaks in low-moisture foods such as powder infant formula and chocolate. Salmonella is well-know to survive in dry environments.

Organizations need to match their control testing, hygiene monitoring and risk management procedures to their products. For instance, chocolate production is an open process, so teams need to focus on maintaining cleanliness at every point of contact, from the storage tanks and pipework to the molds.

3. Build a culture that values food safety 

Sometimes, food safety can be seen as nothing more than an annoying additional cost to food production – but neglecting it can be a false economy.

Salmonella infection causes the US poultry industry alone an estimated $2.8 billion in losses every year,2 and recalls can cost thousands, while causing long-lasting brand damage.

But when food safety is viewed as business critical at all levels of the organization, it breeds robust processes that are less likely to fail.

4. An abundance of caution 

It is not always possible to avoid an outbreak, so have a clear, robust plan that errs on the side of caution for if and when the worst happens.

After an outbreak, the food industry shut down production for some days, if not months in order to operate multiple cleaning operation procedures. Sometimes, it is decided to close the factory, particularly when the contamination was issued from challenging environments.

5. Ensure supply chain oversight

In the recent outbreaks associated with chocolate. The contaminated raw materials were found to be buttermilk and lecithin. However, as we have seen many times before, it is manufacturers rather than the suppliers that take the financial and reputational hit.

Businesses that are serious about protecting themselves and their customers from the impact of a Salmonella outbreak need to apply robust food safety procedures to every part of the production line – from materials intake to the finished product.

Salmonella test methods

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  1. Nearly 200 sick in EU and UK Salmonella outbreak. (2022). Available at: https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2022/12/nearly-200-sick-in-eu-and-uk-salmonella-outbreak/  Last accessed 8 June 2023

  2. Aljuwayd, M., Malli, I. A., & Kwon, Y. M. (2023). Application of Eugenol in Poultry to Control Salmonella Colonization and Spread. Veterinary Sciences, 10(2), 151.