What is Environmental Monitoring?
Environmental Monitoring (EM) Programs involve identifying and trending the microbial species in your operation in order to find organisms of concern and take action before the product is impacted. EM programs are most commonly used as verification for sanitation, hygienic zoning, and other controls used to mitigate product contamination by environmental pathogens. Environmental pathogens are disease-causing organisms which tend to take harbor in a facility’s environment such as in or on equipment, walls, floors, overheads, and drains. Examples of common environmental pathogens are Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.
As a preliminary step to the EM program, your current process and product flow will be reviewed by one of Avert’s experienced advisors. Next, the environmental surfaces of the facility along with equipment, tools, utensils, material handling vessels, and common touch points such as door handles and switches are mapped. Then, based on the nature of the product and the associated risk level of activities performed in given areas, using a zonal approach, we determine the appropriate pathogens or indicator organisms to monitor and develop a schedule of sampling activities to act as the foundation of the EM program. For certain processes and products, we recommend extending monitoring to staff members including microbial sampling of hands and footwear. We finish up the program by developing corrective and preventive actions, training your staff on taking samples and interpreting results, and getting you set up with an analytical lab to meet your needs.
Why Is Monitoring Important?
Manufacturing facilities should know the types of microbes which may affect their facility, equipment, and products. This allows them to develop the right system for environmental sampling and monitoring which targets the appropriate organisms of concern at appropriate frequencies for their operation.
Ready-to-Eat food manufacturers with no lethality step or where products are exposed after the lethality step must have an environmental monitoring program verifying effective sanitation, cGMP and process controls under both the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis and Risk Based Preventive Controls for Human Food Regulation (21 CFR 117) and the USDA’s Control of Listeria Monocytogenes in Post-Lethality Exposed Ready-To-Eat Products (9 CFR 430).
If product testing reveals a pathogen of concern such as Salmonella or Listeria, recalling the affected product is often the only solution. Beyond the operational value of an EM program and the confidence that comes with it, EM programs can be considered “recall insurance” in that they provide actionable information to prevent product contamination and thus avoid a recall.
Let’s talk about it!
Don’t wait until the damage is done. Target and identify the microbes in your facility before you have a problem, helping you avoid a situation where a recall may be the only solution. Avert will design and implement an Environmental Monitoring Program from the ground up and provide appropriate training so your team is positioned to maintain and continuously improve your EM program. Call or email us today!