Editor’s note: This is part of a series on food safety costs for businesses. The series is sponsored by CERTUS Food Safety. This piece explores the development of effective sanitation practices.
When developing and implementing a comprehensive sanitation program, food companies need to relentlessly look for pathogens, rather than swabbing to satisfy compliance requirements, says Food Safety Specialist
“The biggest mistake I see when doing an initial audit of a food company’s sanitation program is that they are not trying to find problems,” explains Dunn. “Rather than looking for a specific pathogen, like listeria, and looking for specific pathogens in high risk areas, the company will stick to a standard set of swabs and not deviate this practice when consistently receiving negative results.”
Instead, food companies need to be approaching it with the mindset that pathogens are present – and must do everything possible to find them, prevent them from contaminating product and find a solution to mitigate any future risks.
According to Dunn, this requires a strategic Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) to assess the effectiveness of current sanitation practices and to gather and analyze required data to implement corrective actions.
“Look at it as one big defensive line. Your EMP program is always going to be paramount to knowing where your issues are and leading into those corrective actions – which is usually where things fall short. You know you have an issue and put all corrective actions through your verification process. But, how do you take your swabs, your vector swabs and follow-up? A lot of facilities have issues with closing those corrective actions now because so many of them are redundant depending on how many swabs you had,” he explains. “EMP should ensure follow-up swabs, and that high risk areas are focused on. It should also ensure additional non-routine swabs are being introduced, with results reported to the food safety team. It goes hand-in-hand with a food-safety program – serving as a blueprint of how a facility operates.”
Create an EMP team
Through his experience of working with individual companies on EMP, Dunn has found one of the most effective ways to create and execute a comprehensive program is to create a designated EMP team. This should include “owners” of specific aspects, like quality and sanitation managers, to be the driving force behind EMP practices related to their area of the operation.