In this Food Safety Insights column, we continue to explore processors' near-term priorities for food safety programs, as well as the regulations and issues they are watching that will have the most impact on their programs in the future. Food safety culture, microbiological control (including environmental monitoring), and sanitation and hygiene are three of processors' indicated top priorities for the near term.
A recent study carried out environmental monitoring programs (EMPs) for Listeria monocytogenes at three food production facilities in Japan with the aim of developing EMPs that are relevant to Japanese food businesses and to encourage more widespread adoption of EMPs.
Implementing an effective Listeria environmental monitoring program enables knowledge of where Listeria can enter, harbor, and move through a facility, which is the first step toward keeping the pathogen on the run and not allowing it to impact production surfaces or finished product.
Cleaning program validation that primarily relies on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) monitoring can yield poor results if a few basic strategies are not incorporated into the sampling program to eliminate bias. These include probability sampling, uniformity of the sample, as well as understanding the limitation of the test instrument and the interpretation of results.
Through sampling activities and whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis, a recent research project funded by the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) revealed insights about the movement of L. monocytogenes across a processing facility, the persistence of the pathogen, and the efficacy of biocides and sanitation practices.
Many methods are available for verifying the viability of a sanitation program, and most facilities use a combination of different methods to ensure that the sanitation program is performing as expected. Pathogen environmental monitoring (PEM) programs are a key prerequisite program to a sanitation program and to any facility's overall food safety program. There is no one-size-fits-all PEM program for facilities; rather, a PEM program is based on a facility's risk factors and what product(s) the facility manufactures.
The Investigations Operations Manual is the standard for FDA field investigations. It explains how FDA investigators are taught to act, what to look for, and what to do when they find a noncompliance at a food facility. The latest version, which came out in June 2022, contains an important update on environmental monitoring.