The Anatomy of a Food Safety Research Study

There are hosts of food safety myths and urban legends floating around out there. From the five-second rule (which is false) to various theories about cooking meat (it’s the temperature, more so than the color, that matters), many have hypothesized about the safety levels of various foods.

But if you are a food manufacturer, quality professional or food handler, the only way to know the truth about food safety is to perform scientific research. And in many cases, that research could be the difference between operating safely and efficiently, and undergoing costly recalls due to pathogenic or bacterial contamination in your product line.

To combat these risks, Chestnut Labs has a dedicated research team that will help design, implement, and report on an appropriate food research study for your organization. Here’s a look at the typical process when taking on a food research study with Chestnut Labs.

1. Determine and State the Study’s Objective(s)

What question are we trying to answer? This is the core of writing an objective to guide the study throughout the process. The study’s objective(s) list out the factors being evaluated in the study.

Here are some examples of study objectives: 

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  • Determine the microbial log reduction of pathogens in pet food treats when continuous baking procedures are utilized. 
  • Determine the effectiveness of heat treatment with humidity against Salmonella spp. on stainless steel.
  • Determining the shelf life of shredded vegetables in Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP). 
  • Determine the stability of Listeria monocytogenes in chicken powder stored at room temperature.

Note that a research study can harness scientific information through investigation of multiple points of the food production process. From cooking temperature to storage conditions, or even the equipment that’s used for any stage of food production, a study’s objective can help manufacturers gain valuable insight on food safety.

2. Design Methods Appropriate for the Study

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, the methods used to conduct a research study and accompanying documentation are more important than ever. 

The study methods follow recommendations set forth by regulatory bodies such as the USDA, FDA, and the Almond Board of California (ABC).

Methods vary from study to study, but our approach to designing a research study applies to all of our study protocols: Shelf-life studies, validation studies, in-plant validation studies and challenge studies. 

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3. Provide Conclusions and Summary Report

The essential element to any research study is to evaluate gathered data, and understanding what actions to take based on findings. For many organizations, this determines whether or not to incorporate new ingredients, switch to a new packaging, optimize thermal processing protocols, or any number of other key business decisions.

Chestnut Labs delivers conclusions and summary reports to clients, including all relevant charts and graphs, observations, and other analyses. For studies monitoring microorganisms, organism counts are included with the summary report.

Chestnut Labs has conducted food research studies of all shapes and sizes for many different food matrices and budget levels. Contact us about your research needs today, and one of our food research professionals will be in touch to begin a partnership for food research. 

Bryce Wilks