The answer may be in your local regulations.
I am not aware of any specific official limits for hand swabs.
Official APC data for any type of swabs is also rare AFAIK.
Considering general surface contamination, I suspect the situation has not greatly changed from the extract in this 2008 post (?)–
The effectiveness of cleaning practices can be monitored and/or verified by environmental sampling. Under Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 on Microbiological Criteria for Foodstuffs (6) environmental sampling must be undertaken in:
i) premises producing RTE foods which may pose a risk of L. monocytogenes and
ii) premises producing dried infant formula or dried foods for special medical purposes intended for infants below 6 months which pose a risk of Enterobacter saklazakii (in these premises the processing environment and equipment should be sampled for Enterobacteriaceae).
In other premises, environmental sampling should be carried out as necessary. The Regulation does not specify criteria for the acceptable level of microorganisms on surfaces. Rather, environmental sampling should be used as a tool by FBOs (= food business operators) to ensure the foodstuffs under their control meet the relevant process hygiene criteria.
Very few guidelines have been publishedon the acceptable level of microorganisms on surfaces. The US Public Health Service recommends that cleaned and disinfected food service equipment should not exceed 10 viable microorganisms per cm2 (7). The Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) in the UK recommended guidelines for cleaned surfaces ready for use: less than 80cfu/cm2 is satisfactory, 80-1000 cfu/cm2 is borderline and over 1000 cfu/cm2 is unsatisfactory (8). In addition, a Local Authorities Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards (LACOTS)/PHLS study of cleaning standards and practices in food premises correlated samples (surface samples and cleaning cloths) having aerobic colony counts > 1000cfu/cm2 with premises that did not have adequate food hygiene training, hazard analysis, cleaning schedules or cleaning records in place (9).
Few standards have been published on the acceptable level of microorganisms on food preparation surfaces. This is because many factors (including the level of microorganisms on food, the availability of nutrients, the presence of preservatives and the environmental temperature) influence the microbial surface population prior to cleaning and the design and performance of the sanitation programme will determine the levels after cleaning. As these factors differ for every establishment, a common standard is hard to set (5). However, as a guideline ACC counts _ 1000 cfu/cm2 appear to be a suitable cut-off point between acceptable and unacceptable surface hygiene for the food preparation surfaces examined in this survey (the applicability of this guideline to other types of food preparation surfaces cannot be assumed). Where appropriate, swabbing can be used in conjunction with other inspection activities to draw a complete picture of the hygiene of a food premises.
In the UK, and including hands, the above values of “80” seems to be often unofficially interpreted as “100” (from memory, Campden was mentioned as one source) so that compared to USPHS, an approx. 10x increase exists, eg this post/thread –
A lot of variation can be found in practice. A common ball-park limit for various situations is 100cfu/cm2 but some products / locations hv specific regulations which are much tighter.
However, just to illustrate the possible variations, compare this data also claimed to be commonly used in Europe. Looks similar to USPHS concept.
< 1 ufc/cm2----- excellent
11-100 ufc/cm2 ---- surface needs to be cleaned
>101 ufc/cm2 ---- stop production
Obviously APC results are rather difficult to closely classify although very good / very poor results should be relatively visible.
Many micro. texts recommend first establishing yr current baseline (ie get some data) and then start further correlating, eg to product data / process-environment variables if necessary. Other references prefer to use alternative parameters as previously discussed here since although official data is probably equally lacking, some degree of consensus is maybe (?) more feasible, eg Enterobacteriaceae, E.coli, S.aureus, etc.
Staphylococcus hominis is another typical skin bacterial species.
600 per (???)
Regret no idea of typical levels (if any), apparently normally considered as not significant except in specific circumstances, eg -http://en.wikipedia....ococcus_hominis
(maybe ask yr consulting laboratory for an opinion)
Also perhaps you should re-consider using gloves, as per US Food Code.
Rgds / Charles.C