Companies can prevent problems before any complications and hazards arrive by taking a solid and proactive approach to onsite microorganism and pathogen testing. Effective testing protocols can avoid contamination by acting as an early warning before they affect products.

Notably, having a robust environmental monitoring plan and structured process for eliminating dangers is also essential for adhering to guidelines such as the BRC Global Standards for Food Safety (BRCGS) in the food industry.

What is microorganism testing, and why is it important?

Microorganism and pathogen testing are incorporated into environmental monitoring programs to allow continual assessment of cleaning protocols at a microbial level. Target organisms and pathogens are established based on the risks presented in the environment, then a sampling and testing plan is determined based on this assessment.

These may include specific pathogens (e.g. Listeria spp in wet environments or Enterbacteriaceae in dry environments), specific spoilage organisms (e.g. yeast or mould) or indicator organisms (e.g., total plate count, total coliforms). Testing is commonly conducted through onsite testing and environmental swabs, which are then sent offsite to an external laboratory for analysis.

Identifying hazards at a microbial level helps mitigate potential food safety risks in production, allowing them to be appropriately managed to prevent product contamination, product recalls that waste time and money and ensure the safety of both the consumer and the workforce.

How can I ensure our environmental monitoring is to the best standard for microorganism testing?

There is no universal blueprint for an environmental microorganism monitoring program. Individual companies design and structure their programs based on their own specific manufacturing environment and hazard analysis.

To ensure that your environment monitoring successfully prevents hazards, mapping out the production process is essential along with, highlighting zones and specific areas within the equipment that are a higher risk. Once completed, test points can be defined throughout to monitor cleanliness and control the risks of potential contamination.

Areas can be broken down into different zones to easily identify the risks they pose based on their proximity to the food and cross-contamination risks, the ease of cleaning and the condition of the surface being tested.

  • High-risk food contact areas (e.g., slicers, hoppers, conveyor belts, knives, drains, condensate from chillers and freezers)
  • Proximity non-direct food contact areas (e.g., equipment control panels, chiller door handles, equipment framework)
  • Remote non-food contact areas (e.g., hand carts, forklift trucks, floors, walls)
  • Outside areas (e.g., staff rooms, canteens, warehousing for finished product)

Assessing the risks of surfaces, the material, porosity, age, accessibility, damage (scratches and marks) and overall condition must be taken into consideration. Limitations are also dependent on whether the surface is in an area considered to be clean processing or sterile food contact.

Through a hazard risk analysis that considers these areas, you can use onsite microorganism testing to monitor potential risks and make proactive changes to reduce them. Each company will have its own prerogative based on the raw materials and end products being produced.

It is vital to implement into your routine established test locations based on their proximity to food preparation areas, locations that are difficult to clean and ensure that your team is regularly checking areas that previously tested positive. Regular inspections and sample tests can also eliminate any potential contamination from being missed in areas you may not be aware are contaminated initially. 

What are some common microorganisms tested for in food production?

Escherichia coli, commonly known as E.coli, is a type of bacteria that lives in the intestines. It helps our bodies to break down and digest the food that we eat. However, certain infectious strains exist which spread through contaminated food, water, and from infectious hosts, like people or animals. Food borne outbreaks of E.coli O157:H7 can result in significant adverse health conditions for people of any age.

Salmonella is one of the most common food-borne pathogens and causes an estimated 2 to 4 million cases of salmonellosis annually. Salmonella has been associated with raw meats, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products, fish, shrimp, yeast, cake mixes, peanut butter, cocoa and chocolate.

Listeria is also spread in a similar way to salmonella as the infection is caused by consuming food contaminated with listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Listeria is a risk with many foods but most commonly with unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses, and ready-to-eat foods, such as deli meats, salads and sandwiches. The infection mostly affects pregnant women, babies, older adults, and those with weaker immune systems. If food contaminated with listeria monocytogenes is consumed during pregnancy, it can affect the health of the foetus.

How can I prevent contamination from microorganisms and pathogens?

Residue from production which remains on a surface after poor cleaning can encourage microorganism growth which leads to spoilage, risk of food poisoning and shelf life reduction. 

Along with a strict hygiene monitoring regime and regular cleaning with the correct high-strength cleaning supplies, regular microorganism testing is essential for preventing contamination from being potentially missed. 

With advances in technology indicator organism and pathogen testing can now be conducted on-site with tests such as Hygiena™ MicroSnap™ and InSite™ Tests. If your facility has laboratory testing capabilities onsite specific spoilage organism tests can be conducted using 3M™ Petrifilm™ Plates or MDS System.

Our selection of microorganism tests can be used as part of our environmental monitoring regime so you can identify contaminated areas quickly, to efficiently reduce the chance of a microorganism or pathogen, such as listeria, e.coli, coliforms or salmonella, from compromising your production. 

Hygiena™ Indicator Organism and Pathogen Tests

Hygiena™ MicroSnap™ collection of indicator organism tests feature Hygiena's patented Snap-Valve™ technology and work with the EnSURE™ Touch and SureTrend Cloud environmental monitoring system.  Hygiena™ InSite™ collection of chromogenic pathogen tests provide an easy-to-use self-contained environmental sampling and screening test to help you control pathogens in your environment.

Hygiena® InSite® Environmental Species Tests

  • Environmental chromogenic pathogen testing for Listeria species, Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono) and Salmonella.
  • Each device contains a liquid medium formulated with growth enhancers and chromogenic compounds selective for the chosen pathogen.
  • Delivers results in 24 - 48 hours.
  • The colour-changing device is easy to interpret.
  • All-in-one test utilises a large foam sample for maximum sample collection, the only equipment you'll need is a heater block.
  • Self-contained reagent- no transfers minimising the chance of contamination
  • Hygiena™ InSite™ Listeria: when Listeria species is present in a sample, the liquid media changes colour from amber to black. 
  • Hygiena™ InSite™ L.mono Glo: when Listeria species is present in a sample, the liquid media changes colour from amber to black. If pathogenic Listeria, like L.mono, is present, the media will glow green when UV light is shined on it. 
  • Hygiena™ InSite™ Salmonella: when Salmonella species is present in a sample, the liquid medium changes colour from purple to vivid yellow.

Hygiena® MicroSnap® Rapid Indicator Organism Tests

  • Hygiena™ MicroSnap™ are Rapid tests for the detection and enumeration of E. Coli, Coliforms, Enterobacteriaceae and Total Viable Count (TVC)
  • The MicroSnap detects the microorganism and emits a light that is measured and quantified with Hygiena™ EnSURE luminometer.
  • Same-day results enable you to take corrective actions faster or release products sooner. 
  • Broad CFU detection range (100-10,000 CFU) means fewer dilutions and less sample prep saving time and money.
  • Pass/Fail results at required detection levels are easy to understand.
  • In-house testing reduces costs from outside lab fees.

3M™ Indicator Organism and Pathogen Tests

Ready to use, reliable and compact, 3M™ Petrifilm™ Plates have streamlined, standardised and simplified microbial indicator testing for the food industry and can reduce your environmental impact compared to agar plates. 3M™ Molecular Detection System for pathogen testing is accurate and reliable, with ready-to-use reagents, a single protocol for all pathogens and same- or next-day results. 

3M™ Petrifilm™ Plates

  • Portfolio includes over 15 Petrifilm plates including Aerobic, E.Coli/Coliform, Enterobacteriaceae, Lactic Acid Bacteria and Yeast & moulds.
  • Time-saving, sample-ready plates for quality indicator testing in food production.
  • A convenient, efficient, space-saving way to test in the modern food system.
  • Reduction in operational costs vs traditional testing methods.
  • Reduce or eliminate time-consuming agar prep.
  • Compact size uses less storage/incubator space.

3M™ Molecular Detection System

  • 3M™ Molecular Detection System you can be confident that your pathogen testing is accurate and reliable. 
  • Save time and labour costs with ready-to-use reagents, a single protocol for all pathogens and same or next-day results.
  • Make critical decisions faster and optimise productivity with the next generation of 3M™ Molecular Detection Assays: Salmonella, Listeria, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157 (including H7), Cronobacter and Campylobacter
  • Colour-change process control for increased confidence in process reaction.
  • Custom reports and LIMS compatibility for enhanced information management.

How can we help?

At Gem Scientific, we provide a personal service to fit the needs of your business and our team works with companies to understand their unique requirements and necessary solutions to implement. 

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you work towards your goals:

01924 444577

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