Food Safety of Farmstead Cheese Processors in Pennsylvania: An Initial Needs Assessment

Robson A. M. Machado, Rama Radhakrishna, Catherine N. Cutter

Biblographic citation: Food Protection Trends, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 88-98, Mar 2017

Volume 37, Issue 2: Pages 88–98

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There were 97 cheese-related illness outbreaks in the United States between 1998 and 2012, resulting in 2,212 illnesses, 221 hospitalizations, and 10 deaths. Bacteria were responsible for most of the illnesses, with Salmonella enterica being the most common bacterium (18.5%), followed by Campylobacter spp. (13.6%), and Listeria monocytogenes (12.3%); the latter of which was responsible for all of the deaths. Cheeses made by small dairy processors have been involved in several of these outbreaks. However, little is known about this audience’s food safety (FS) practices. The goal of this study was to conduct a needs assessment addressing sanitation and FS issues at small cheesemaking establishments in Pennsylvania, using information from dairy inspectors, cheesemakers, and on-site observations. The inspector surveys (n = 6) and observations made during cheesemaking (n = 5) suggest that basic sanitation is a concern. In contrast, the cheesemakers indicated that their self-assessed knowledge, attitude, and behavior were “good” or “very good” in the areas of sanitation (70%) and FS (65%). However, the observations also indicate that these processors may lack basic FS practices and that there are gaps in their FS knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Thus, there appears to be a need for FS training, with an emphasis on sanitation, for this underserved audience.

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