A monitoring or microbiological system in your plant is going to be there and it is going to be designed to try and detect if there are any problems. So the programme must be designed to find potential problems and not just try to give good results.
Very often we see microbiological environmental swabbing programmes or testing programmes that are designed to try and show that the foods don’t have any problems. Rather than trying to uncover problems.
There is a fundamental difference.
When trying to uncover a problem in the factory, we really need to go and look for it. If you have pathogens hiding in your factory you really need to try and find them. You cannot just pay lip service to environmental monitoring.
If you have Salmonella or Listeria hiding in your factory you need to be going and looking in those hard to reach areas, nooks and crannies, swabbing and trying to find out where it is.
You cannot just be swabbing clean surfaces and easy to reach areas, taking 10 swabs and saying they all came back negative, that “I don’t have a problem in my factory”. Because those problems may be in the hard to reach areas where you are not looking. The monitoring systems need to be designed to try and detect the problems.
Because if you don’t know that you have got them you are not going to be able to fix them. Testing for pathogens is different for testing to prove cleaning efficacy. When you trying to prove cleaning efficacy you are going to clean down the areas that you want to swab.
Once its cleaned, you are going to take a swab of the certain area, usually a 10cm x 10cm. You would then usually do a total bacterial count possibly even yeasts and moulds sometimes even an E. coli count to prove that your cleaning and sanitising has worked.
When we are looking for pathogens, we don’t have to limit ourselves to a 10 x 10 cm area.
We want to try and find what is going on. Don’t swab a small 10×10 cm area of the drain, swab as much of the drain as possible. Take the trap out of the drain, swab as deep down as you can, remember we are trying to detect the pathogen, we are not trying to determine counts per square centimetre.
We really want to find is there pathogens hiding in that drain or if you have got particular machine that you are worried about. Try and swab as much of the area in question as possible to try and detect this pathogen.
You may also want to swab during production because remember if you have a production line especially after a CCP, if you are looking for pathogens, swab during production.
Don’t be scared to do that because during the production process there shouldn’t be those pathogens present anyway. We are not going to do total bacterial counts because general bacteria from the product may be resulting in these high counts.