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SPC swabbing for Environmental Monitoring of non-food contact surface

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C_Custer

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 12:43 AM

I just start at a different company in the last year. They swab weekly for SPC, Coliform, E. Coli, and Enterobacteriaceae as indicators.  I'm wondering if it's necessary to have SPC as an indicator for swabbing of non food contact surfaces? We swab dirty equipment to see if anything is growing. Just by the fact that it's dirty, the SPC will be high.

I've never swabbed that way before!


Edited by C_Custer, 12 June 2024 - 12:44 AM.


G M

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 11:56 AM

I just start at a different company in the last year. They swab weekly for SPC, Coliform, E. Coli, and Enterobacteriaceae as indicators.  I'm wondering if it's necessary to have SPC as an indicator for swabbing of non food contact surfaces? We swab dirty equipment to see if anything is growing. Just by the fact that it's dirty, the SPC will be high.

I've never swabbed that way before!

 

I suppose it depends on what you mean by dirty, but accumulated food product residue will not always mean high plate counts.  Starting with materials that are not contaminated, low environmental temperatures, inhibitory product chemistry, etc. could drive those soils to have very low counts.

 

We don't know what kind of product you're making, or what the production environment is like, so its hard to say what might be an expected range.

 

For example, if you had a shelf stable RTE product and your incidental contact areas were highly contaminated at the end of every day before sanitation, I would be very concerned.



Seathalos

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 01:16 PM

Cleanliness doesn't equate to sanitation and sanitation doesn't equate to cleanliness. One reason why I think my plants reliance on ATP for cleaning verification isn't enough. But testing during the most "dangerous" or "dirty" time of production is part of HARPC and HACCP standards. You need to make sure that even during the time that your facility is at its most vulnerable you are providing safe to handle, or in the case of RTE safe to consume products. 

 

I am currently dealing with the aftermath of PCQIs not handling the correctly if they even did them at all. Microbial testing should be done at least 4hrs into production if not right before sanitation happens to confirm that your preventive controls are working properly and that you do not have the potential of contaminated products. 



Shrimper

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 01:45 PM

I just start at a different company in the last year. They swab weekly for SPC, Coliform, E. Coli, and Enterobacteriaceae as indicators.  I'm wondering if it's necessary to have SPC as an indicator for swabbing of non food contact surfaces? We swab dirty equipment to see if anything is growing. Just by the fact that it's dirty, the SPC will be high.

I've never swabbed that way before!

C_custer,

 

My plant currently does no RTE food, only raw seafood. The microbe swabs that we conduct are APC, E. coli/coliforms, Staph, and salmonella. I am the one who conducts the swabbing, and our protocol is to swab early in the morning after sanitation has finished their night shift. This give us a good idea that sanitation is doing a thorough job. APC and SPC are pretty similar in the bacteria that can grow, and in my opinion gives a good idea on the quality of work that sanitation does. If we ever have higher counts, I speak directly with the sanitation workers, showing them the high counts, and explaining the importance of being thorough. 

 

So, I think SPC swabbing is good to keep general cleanliness. Furthermore, depending on your cleaning techniques, just because a non-food contact source is "non-food contact" does not mean that the microbes cannot move with pressure washing or cross contamination to food-contact surfaces. 



C_Custer

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 03:15 PM

We produce refrigerated snack food. What I mean about the area is dirty is, I swab at least 4 hours into shift so there is batter or some kind of ingredient on the area being swabbed. I understand that dirty doesn't mean high in micros, just concerned we're doing something that's not needed.



Seathalos

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Posted 12 June 2024 - 03:24 PM

We produce refrigerated snack food. What I mean about the area is dirty is, I swab at least 4 hours into shift so there is batter or some kind of ingredient on the area being swabbed. I understand that dirty doesn't mean high in micros, just concerned we're doing something that's not needed.

Nope you are doing exactly what would need to be done. I recently completed my PCQI training, less than a week ago, and it specifically talked about doing microbial testing when the facility is at its dirtiest. Unfortunately it seems somewhat common for production to try to cheat these test to make sure they pass with false negatives. I personally had to deal with being told I tested "wrong" because I didn't extra clean nor sanitize the 10" by 10" testing zones. Culture like this will cause more foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls, costing the company and industry far more than if we did the proper preventative measures.


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liberator

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Posted 07 July 2024 - 10:44 PM

Agree that your environmental program should commence at around 4 hours into a production run as this gives you an indication of the normal levels of microbial contamination.

 

Doing your environmental swabbing program after a full clean and sanitisation is only validating your cleaning program and not what levels of micros are in the plant while the plant is in operation, and this is what you need to know.

 

If you swab after a clean and levels are low, then good, your cleaning program is working. But if you get a hit of pathogens, EB etc in your finished product you'll have no idea as to the source as you're not monitoring the cleanliness of the actual manufacturing process. There could easily be some product hang up in your process that cross contaminates the products but you'd never know this as your swabs after cleaning didn't show any issue, so where did it come from, how did I get this contamination?

 

I've never seen any value in environmental  testing for SPC/TPC, if it shows a high count is that count of concern? What does that plate count tell you about pathogens, EB etc, nothing? SPC Is ok to check a plants cleanliness after cleaning and sanitation, but it doesn't tell you anything about the hygiene of your manufacturing process. If you do SPC in a milk plant you will get high counts, pasteurisation kills the pathogens but not all the micros in the milks we can still get high SPC counts, this doesn't mean the product is unsafe. So we test for EB, E.coli, listeria, salmonella etc, to make sure the product won't kill a consumer.


Edited by liberator, 07 July 2024 - 10:49 PM.


chrisrushworth

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Posted 08 July 2024 - 07:48 AM

The TVC result would be a good indicator of other microbes present that your not testing for.

 

I wouldn't bother with ent, coli & ecoli (as the e-coli is the one you would be more worried about i presume)  .....I would just do the ents & ecoli.

 

If its RTE need to consider Staph's from staff hands..

 

You need to compile a RA to determine the frequency, if not tested before i suggest you test high volume for a month or two to get a baseline and then from there you can establish required frequency.

 

If you could provide more background on company/product could help further...





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