Carl Custer

Photo of 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

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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.

Latest Articles

Contributed Editor’s note: One of our regular contributors, Carl Custer, has been closely watching the investigations into E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with romaine lettuce in the past year. Here he discusses some of the research he has been reviewing in recent days on related topics. An animal entering a feed lot or other CAFO is similar to your child entering kindergarten. Your child will pick up every cough, cold, or disease — including head…
Opinion Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part opinion piece. To read part one, please click here. In the previous article, I wrote about the decades-old public health problem of poultry-borne salmonellosis. This article will propose declaring the virulent strains that are pathogenic to humans as adulterants and the benefits of doing so. Regulatory policies for other foodborne pathogens recognize consumer’s inability to handle them. The Code of Federal regulations, 9 CFR…
Opinion Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part opinion piece. In recent days the CDC and FSIS updated information on a continuing salmonellosis outbreak connected to raw and live turkeys. Since July 19 announcement of the outbreak, 74 more people from 26 more states have been reported. That brings the totals, as of Nov. 5, to 164 infected people from 35 states. Sixty-three have been hospitalized and one person has died. Of 135 people…
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 of vinegar on lettuce. That acetic acid is the most lethal of the organic acids is well known. In addition…
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 visible conditions that FSIS inspectors can detect are based on 19th and 20th century paradigms that visible disease…
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. Epidemiology and scientific research demonstrate that ordinary consumers are incapable of handling raw meat or poultry contaminated with these virulent…
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 biosecurity measures and vaccinations. The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) and Specific Pathogen-Free Swine (SPF) management programs are two examples.…
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 a primary breeder over this period (1978-81) resulted in salmonella-free day-old poults from which 7500 hens and 600 toms were…
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 meat/poultry.” In a 2007 report, USDA’s National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods stated, ”’Ready-to-cook’ may not clearly inform…
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, v. Earl Butz, Secretary of Department of Agriculture, et al., “ . . . American housewives and cooks normally are…