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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Supply Chains Play Valuable Role in Seafood Safety

A new series of studies led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of environmental health and engineering, with colleagues at the Virginia Tech Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center and the Pacific Shellfish Institute, is the first to the map and track the performance of supply chains for farmed oysters in the U.S.

To collect study data, researchers visited a dozen oyster farms, including oyster farms on the East Coast in the Chesapeake Bay region and the West Coast in Washington State. The researchers placed coin-sized temperature sensors inside freshly harvested oysters and taped sensors to the outside of boxes and bags during packing. Over 125 boxes were tracked this way over a two-year period. The oysters with sensors were clearly marked to make sure they did not enter the food supply. The sensors were ultimately removed by retail or restaurant staff and returned to the study team using pre-paid envelopes. This information was then used to track the temperature profile of oysters from dock to plate, and to model the risks of Vibrio parahaemolyticus—one of the Vibrio bacteria of human health concern.

The researchers used the studies’ findings to offer actionable recommendations for strengthening cold chains and ensuring their continued performance. For example, there is need for the industry to develop best practices for shipping live oysters on airlines. At the processor and distributor levels, it is also important that companies use temperature sensors or time–temperature integrators (TTIs) to evaluate and verify that their procedures and practices are working properly.

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