Supply chain knowledge crucial to prevent chocolate contamination

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Controls of Salmonella in the cocoa supply chain
Controls of Salmonella in the cocoa supply chain

Related tags Supply chain Management

Understanding at what points Salmonella is a risk in the cocoa supply chain is vital to give protection to the brand and consumers, according to the head of UK quality for cocoa and chocolate at ADM.

The goal is to identify if Salmonella is present when a product is developed and before it is released.

Hélèna Blackshaw, head of UK quality for cocoa and chocolate at ADM, said it is important to break down the supply chain steps and identify areas of risk.

“It’s looking at the whole global supply chain all the way through from the farm to the consumer, identifying each step and then looking at your critical control points,” ​she said at the Global Food Safety Summit in Madrid.

“[Roasting] is your last step of eliminating Salmonella where there is no further heat processing treatment and identifying that as your critical control point of your whole global supply chain.

“Then it is about emphasising your resources and your sampling at that point, rather than trying to audit and sample the whole supply chain, to focus more on your critical stage which is, in a cocoa and chocolate supply chain, at your roasting stage.”

Sampling is not enough

With sampling in traditional quality control methods, using that will not guarantee that products are free of Salmonella.

It is a method of verification that all pre-requisite processors are working and in place, said Blackshaw, who chaired the first day of the summit.

“Now if you take 10 samples across a sample of chocolate because it doesn’t grow due to the characteristics of chocolate the probability of actually taking that sample and identifying that it has got Salmonella in that batch is extremely low,” ​she said.

“So relying on sampling alone is not going to give you safety assurances so what you need to be focussing on is looking at all your systems and your processes and focussing on those areas and then using your sampling to verify that they are working to give you a greater degree of confidence.  

“So your systems and your processes are more proactive systems so it is about making sure it doesn’t contaminate in the first place, whereas quality control techniques used in sampling is trying to detect the Salmonella which is too late, hence reactive.”

If there is a positive sample by the time results are received, 48 hours for a presumptive positive and up to five days for a positive, product could have gone all the way through the supply chain.

Traders understanding

With traders who could be buying products from numerous suppliers, it is important to understand the supplier approval systems they have in place.

“Many traders could be buying from a number of suppliers but then they could be distributing them and re-bagging them, adding more process steps in the supply chain," ​she said.

“Unless you have that partnership and sit down with your traders and talk to them you don’t have that visibility.

“It's areas such as there, where you can get Salmonella contamination, i.e. if a trader then starts re-bagging and they are re-bagging in an environment that’s dirty, water leaks etc it is this point you could get contamination and you have no knowledge of it at all unless you have that discussion with your traders and have planned out the steps involved.”  

Blackshaw said the GFSI certification for traders is available but not many have taken it up as yet.

She said there have been previous Salmonella outbreaks in chocolate and while it doesn’t grow, if it gets in after roasting there is no step to eliminate it from the product. 

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Reducing heat resistance with added moisture

Posted by PAG,

Although Salmonella heat resistance in very low moisture products such as chocolate, is considerably enhanced, addition of up ca. 2% moisture will reduce the heat resistance. Addition of moisture just before or during conching, may be sufficient to eliminate Salmonella if the temperature reaches a sufficiently high temperature.

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Posted by A.nonymous,

Surely comtamination of product with Salmonella could occur after roasting via human and other environmental sources within the manufacturing facility? Suggesting that the roasting is your last stage of eliminating Salmonella is niave as there are many stages beyond roasting where contamination could occur. Eliminating these is also important to ensure the safety of the finished product?
I agree that getting roasting stage correct is vital however it is not the only area for control, the whole manufacturing process is important as Salmonella can contaminate at any stage - the Cadbury incident is evidence of this.

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