Otautahi – Eagle Protect, with offices in New Zealand and the US, has found at least 10 different strains of Bacillus cereus contamination on new, unused single-use gloves during its independent testing of 26 different brands.
The results included strains containing combinations of virulent cytotoxic and emetic toxins.
This was significant with a recent recall of meat products announced in the US due to Bacillus cereus contamination. It is estimated that this pathogen is the fifth leading cause of food borne illness in the US.
Eagle Protect’s findings has prompted the company to issue an urgent warning to the food handling industry on the hidden risks of not just chemical but also significant microbial single-use glove contamination in the existing supply chain.
In the case of food recalls, the key concern which needs to be addressed is the source of contamination, Eagle Protect chief executive Steve Ardagh says.
“At what stage of the food supply chain is the contamination occurring?
“Few controls are required in relation to the reliability and consistency of raw material ingredients, manufacturing processes, cleanliness, and factory compliance.
“As New Zealand basically follow the same procurement process, the NZ food sector faces the same risk. Are NZ food companies exposing their supply chain to an increased risk of contamination, outbreaks, and recalls?”
The preliminary testing results of Eagle Protect’s third-party glove analysis also identified a significant number of other foodborne illness pathogens on many of the new and unused gloves tested.
Other pathogens identified on gloves that may represent significant public health hazards for glove users or food establishments included listeria monocytogenes, clostridoides difficile, staphylococcus aureus, pseudomonas aeruginosa, streptococcus pneumoniae and bacillus anthracis (anthrax).
These and other findings from Eagle’s glove analysis, spanning a four-year period, were previously presented at the 2019 and 2021 International Association of Food Protection (IAFP) conferences, with additional results to be published in the coming months.
About 3000 glove samples of new, unused FDA food-compliant and medically approved gloves were tested for various factors including pathogen loading.
To date, the results have identified over 250 different microbial species, bonafide faecal indicators, and nearly two-dozen food and cutaneous pathogens, found on both the interior and exterior glove surfaces.
A recent recall, due to chemicals transmitted from food safe gloves, is one such case in which the source of contamination was traced back to gloves.
Ardagh says it is a pressing concern for the industry, with negative consequences for both the bottom line and brand reputation, not to mention the health and safety of consumers and glove users.
Additional preventive controls are necessary to protect the food supply from glove cross-contamination. This risk to the food industry can be mitigated if suppliers partner with manufacturers who adhere to consistent, high standards of manufacturing and raw material quality and hygiene practices.