In recent weeks, many consumers have been sickened and nine have died from an outbreak of Salmonella in peanut butter and peanut butter products, resulting in the biggest food recall in U.S. history. The AOAC Research Institute, a subsidiary of AOAC INTERNATIONAL, has launched a new program, Emergency Response Validation (ERV), which is designed to respond immediately to emerging food contamination crises by rapidly evaluating candidate methods once a crisis is identified.
The ERV program is based on the Performance-Tested MethodsSM (PTM) program operated by the AOAC Research Institute. Candidate test kit methods will be evaluated using blind coded samples and the results reviewed by the AOAC General Referee for Microbiology.
Q Laboratories, Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio, has been selected as the independent laboratory. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have agreed to participate in the project and will compare analytical results between the FDA Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM) method and the Health Canada method for the detection of Salmonella.
On January 30, 2009, eight companies submitted 12 test kit methods for evaluation. Samples are now being prepared by Q Laboratories, Inc. The evaluation of the candidate methods is scheduled to start on February 23, 2009. The review of the laboratory test results is scheduled for completion on March 4, 2009. A list of test kit methods validated for the detection of Salmonella species in peanut butter will be posted to the AOAC Research Institute website on or about March 25, 2009.
PTMs approved for Salmonella species in peanut butter will receive a special Certificate of Validation and will add to the number of currently validated methods providing investigators, food regulators, and the industry with more validated methods to choose from.
The ERV program takes advantage of the existing pool of PTMs and AOAC Official Methods of AnalysisSM. All of these methods have been extensively evaluated, but may not have been evaluated for the specific contaminant and food type associated with the emerging contamination crisis. The ERV program is designed to evaluate these previously AOAC-approved methods for the specific contaminant and food type causing the crisis, in this case Salmonella species in peanut butter products.
For an up-to-date list of PTMs, visit http://www.aoac.org/testkits/testedmethods.html.