BFP Editor’s Note: Should BICO wish to communicate their side of the story with our readers, we would be pleased to prominently publish their letter unedited as it is received.
Dr. Robert D. Lucas
(address removed by BFP)
Barbados, West Indies
(tel & email removed by BFP)
The Barbados Advocate
In the “Daily nation” of 13th.March 2009, there was an article entitled: “Clear Bico’s Name” In paragraph ten (10) of the article, Mr. Edwin Thirwell had the following to say: “…samples were not tested in accordance with standard industry procedures…..That lab specializes in clinical microbiology and only does limited food testing on request…..Thirwell said Bico sent samples of ice cream from the same recalled batches to be tested at independently at the University…..”
Let me state here that I have an interest in this matter, since, in the past, I have submitted an article to the internet on the topic. I am the holder of a doctorate in Food Microbiology (with publications in the field and the inventor of a microbial growth medium pigeon pea agar/broth), as well as formerly, being a reviewer in Food Microbiology for the Italian Journal of Food Science and have also taught Food Safety and Auditing (HACCP) to the Environmental Health personnel at the Barbados Community College (BCC) and under the aegis of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). I have also done post doctorate research in microbial genetic engineering. As a professional in the field with 36 years experience as a food scientist, 33 of which have been as a food microbiologist, I want to say a few words on the above excerpts from the article of the 13Th.March 2009.
First of all, the organisms associated with the recall eg: E.coli, Klebsiella species (spp.) and other enteric spp. are all causative agents of food poisoning and human illness. It is therefore immaterial whether or not the isolation took place in food microbiological lab or a clinical lab. The standard operating procedure would be
1). Sampling collection must be done by trained personnel. Since ice cream forms what is called an intermediate moisture food and is rather viscous before being frozen, there is not a uniform distribution of pathogenic organisms through out its entire mass. It is interesting to note that Thirwell does not indicate whether or not sample collection was done by members of Bico or by Health personnel.
2). What is meant by standard industrial procedures not being used for testing? There are numerous methods which are available for the testing of foods. For example there are the Bacterial Analytical Methods of the Food and Drug Administration/Center for Food safety and Applied Nutrition (FDA/CFSAN). Then there is the Association of Official Analytical Chemist (AOAC); the American Public Health Association: Compendium for Microbiological Testing of Foods and the International Commission on the Microbial Specification of Foods(ICMSF) just to mention a few. In addition, there are several methods which are favored by individuals food scientists in the literature; presumably, Thirwell would consider these methods not to be standard ones. The authorities cited, all have different methods/media for testing for any one pathogen. As far as I am aware, Thirwell is not trained in the area.
No apology will be forth coming from me.
Robert D. Lucas, PH.D.
Barbados Free Press October 7, 2008: Tainted Ice Cream: Barbados Health Ministry Learns A Lesson (Hopefully)
BFP Sept 26. 2008: Flavorite Foods Replies To Barbados Free Press About Ice Cream Recall – Won’t Provide Reason For Recall !!!
BFP Sept 25, 2008: Barbados Health Minister Estwick: TELL US THE TRUTH !!! Is Contaminated China Milk Powder Behind Ice Cream Recall?
July 7, 2008: Serious Public Health Questions About Barbados BICO Milk and Ice Cream
Bajan Global Report: Local Authorities/Press Too Silent On China Milk Scandal Are Barbadians Safe?
Nation News, October 3, 2008: Ice Cream Meltdown