While sampling alone cannot guarantee the safety of your product, it should be an integral part of your food safety system.

Quality assurance managers recognize that environmental monitoring is a very effective tool in evaluating the efficacy of a plant’s sanitation program.

Environmental monitoring alerts management to potential problem areas, allowing for the development of intervention strategies to assure the microbiological safety of finished products.

Improper aseptic sampling techniques, however, can hinder the success of even the most well planned monitoring program. Employees with limited or no training aseptic training can unknowingly contaminate plant samples and compromise the validity of test results. This can trigger retests, production delays, and even lead to product recalls.

The importance of properly trained workers cannot be overemphasized. By adhering to recommended aseptic techniques, employees can help protect the integrity of samples, generate accurate analytical results, and get your products out the door.

To provide QA managers with a tool to facilitate a roundtable discussion with their employees on proper aseptic techniques, we have compiled the following guidelines:

Clean Hands and Clothing: Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, E. coli and other harmful bacteria live in and on the human body and on clothing. Sample collectors must thoroughly wash their hands with soap and warm water before and after sample collection to kill harmful bacteria, and they should not touch their mouths, nose, eyes, and face. In addition, sterile gloves and clean frocks should be worn and changed as often as necessary to minimize cross-contamination risks.

Tools for the Job: Several commercial sampling kits are available to processors. The collection devices in such kits may vary from sponges, to swabs, to Petrifilm plates, but all of the kits share one thing in common: written instructions for the aseptic collection, storage, and transport of samples. Whichever method(s) you use, employees must thoroughly familiarize themselves with the kit’s contents, (sterile disposable gloves, sterile containers, and sterile equipment, such as spoons, spatulas, etc.) and carefully review the written instructions.

Don’t Touch!: Sample collectors should never touch the swab, sponge, etc., with their bare fingers; limit exposure of sterile collection devices and containers to five minutes or less in the plant environment.

Sanitize Surfaces: Wash, rinse, and sanitize surfaces (e.g., floors, equipment, etc.) on which collection plates are laid before and after sampling to minimize the chances of environmental cross-contamination.

Promptly Discard Materials: Following sampling, contaminated supplies and equipment should be immediately placed into designated containers for disposal and / or sterilization. Sampling labels should never be moistened with the tongue -- use pressure sensitive labels only. Samples should be transported for analysis under conditions outlined in your sampling kit to avoid time / temperature abuse and other factors that can cause degradation.

 

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