Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Carl Custer

Carl Custer

Carl Custer is an independent consultant for food safety microbiology. He retired from USDA FSIS in 2007 after over 34 years as a bench and a desk scientist.  The food safety issues he worked on include:

Inhibition of Clostridium botulinum,

Inhibiting nitrosamine formation,

Analysis and inactivation of Trichinella spiralis,

Physics and microbiology of cooling heated foods,

Thermal and non-thermal inactivation of bacterial pathogens in traditional and ethnic foods,

Predictive microbiology

The microbiology and safety of fermented and dry-cured meat products,

HACCP development and implementation for both processing and slaughter

These issues included developing the scientific basis for regulatory policy development and rule promulgation.

Carl also served as a trainer for FSIS inspectors, the FSIS Hotline, retail processors and inspectors, small farm processors, and country ham processors.

Carl is a lifetime member of the International Food Protection Association (IAFP) and the American Society for Microbiology.  He was also a member of the Food Microbiology Research Conference executive board for twelve years and the Chair for two years.

Carl started his Food Microbiology career in 1966 as a technician then as graduate student for Dr. Carl Vanderzant at Texas A&M.  Projects included dairy, meat, and seafood microbiology.

Carl’s hobbies included cooking, gardening, woodworking, and motorcycle touring on one of his four vintage Honda motorcycles.

Articles Written by Carl Custer

Subscribe to this author via RSS

Vinegar can help home cooks battle bacteria on leafy greens


The most recent outbreak from Escherichia coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce spurred me to pull up an old draft, trim it and post it in an attempt to promote public health. Enjoy.  In the Spring of 2017 while sprinkling balsamic vinegar over chopped romaine lettuce, I wondered if anyone had published on the bactericidal effect… Continue Reading

Slaughter practices more significant than poultry line speeds


Editor’s note: This opinion column offers a differing view from that presented by guest columnist Brian Ronholm in “Eschewing obfuscation on poultry slaughter line speed.”  Poultry slaughter would flunk HACCP 101. The primary hazards from raw poultry are the pathogens Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. FSIS visible poultry inspection does not yet detect those hazards. The… Continue Reading

Controlling Pathogens: Options and a Recommendation


My previous articles have outlined that certain strains of Salmonella are virulent and pathogenic to humans. As such, they are adulterants by definition of the Meat and Poultry Inspection Acts, even in raw meat or poultry products. These pathogenic strains can be identified by their pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) profile or other genetic assays…. Continue Reading

Controlling Salmonella Would Cost Producers


Controlling Salmonella or other pathogens would cost producers, and the cost would be expected to be transferred to processors and consumers. For animal pathogens, the USDA’s APHIS bears some of the burden and indemnifies producers for destroyed flocks. Many producers currently bear the cost of preventing animal pathogens from infecting their flocks and herds through… Continue Reading

Controlling Salmonella in Raw Foods


One of the arguments against attempts to control Salmonella is that it is naturally occurring and impossible to eradicate. According to several scientific studies, that is not true. During 1978-1981, B.S. Pomeroy at the University of Minnesota grew Salmonella-free turkeys primarily by selecting Salmonella-free hatchlings, feeding Salmonella-free feed and isolating the flock. “Hatching eggs from… Continue Reading

Salmonellosis Prevention: The Warning Labels Are Enough


Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) labels are not always informative. The warning label prescribed in 9 C.F.R. 317.2(l) and 381.125(b) has faded into the background of consumer’s awareness by overuse. Other terms such as “uncooked” or “ready to cook” for partially cooked or breaded products are not as clear as “raw” or “contains raw… Continue Reading

Salmonellosis Prevention: ‘Just Cook It’


When Michael Taylor declared Escherichia coli O157:H7 an adulterant in ground beef, there were howls of, “Just cook it,” from the industry and from within FSIS. For example, two members of FSIS’ Microbiology Division were adamant in their declaration that cooking was sufficient and quoted from the 1975 American Public Health Association, et al., Appellants,… Continue Reading

Salmonella: The Bacterium


The genus Salmonella is diverse. Currently there are three recognized species: S. enterica, S. bongori and S. subterranean, with S. enterica the most important specie affecting human and food animal health. However, even the species S. enterica is diverse. Unlike most bacterial genera, Salmonella is best known by the Kauffman-White system serotypes that are based… Continue Reading