Validation and Verification

Requirements for an Environmental Monitoring Program

Environmental monitoring is essential to ensure that the environment where the food is being manufactured or prepared is safe. We need to make sure that the food production environment does not pose a risk to our food, ingredients, packaging or food handlers. In this post, find out what you should be including in the environmental monitoring program for your business.

Purpose

The purpose of environmental monitoring is to verify compliance with applicable food safety regulations, evaluate the effectiveness of cleaning procedures and to ensure that our food handlers are working in a safe environment.

Identifying contaminates

Your environmental monitoring program should detail pathogens, indicator organisms and other contaminates like disinfectants, inorganic / organic chemicals or radionuclides, applicable to your industry and location. Examples may include Listeria monocytogenes, Cryptosporidium, Legionella, E.Coli, Enteric Viruses and Salmonella.

Frequency of environmental monitoring

Your food business may be guided by prescriptive requirements which determine the frequency of completing environmental monitoring activities. For those who are not, a risk-based program should be implemented.

Consider risk attributes such as the raw materials and finished product handled within your facility, layout and age of your facility and applicable pathogens or indicator organisms for your industry or food ingredient. The World Health Organisation has a great resource which provides guidance on pathogens transmitted through drinking water. (Refer to table 7.1 for more information).

Methodology

Document the ‘how’ – how is each activity undertaken? This may include procedures on collecting samples (where, quantity, how-to), completing records, transporting to testing laboratories, reporting results, completing the analysis, responding to adverse results and reviewing outcomes.

Taking Responsibility

Who is responsible for the overall environmental monitoring program and its different components? By clearly allocating who (person or position) is responsible for each activity, a business is more likely to achieve the implementation of the program.

Environmental Monitoring Schedule

The easiest way to keep track of your environmental monitoring activities is to document them in a schedule. For my consultancy clients I use an excel spreadsheet with the following titles:

  • Testing required
  • Summary of testing
  • Location
  • Frequency
  • Person responsible
  • Collection Method
  • Provider (Testing agency)
  • Test Method
  • Test Limits
  • Corrective action required

The collection method generally references a more comprehensive “how-to” procedure.

Review and Corrective Action Process

Any results obtained through your environmental monitoring program need to be reviewed in a timely manner. At a minimum, you should be comparing the monitoring results against the applicable food laws and business requirements. For example, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal limits for over 90 contaminants in drinking water.

If you find that any over your results exceed the allowable limits, corrective action needs to be implemented immediately.

Environmental Monitoring Program Requirements

Many third-party certification standards mandate a requirement to document and implement an environmental monitoring program. Please refer to your individual standard for further direction.

Share your knowledge

Do you have an environmental monitoring program in your food business? Share your insights with the HACCP Mentor community by letting everyone know what you test for, the frequency and the procedures that you use.

 

3 thoughts on “Requirements for an Environmental Monitoring Program”

  1. I was in a previous life a Catering Manager and since retirement sought another vocation, I started what I thought would be a life less stressful a small cleaning business cleaning food waste bins. I soon discovered not everyone even knows that food waste bins that store food waiting for uplift bins must be clean and free from pests this is a requirement of HACCP check it out. Now food awaiting uplift in a commercial run business can accumulate quickly and the smell of rotten organic matter attracts vermin for miles around, and no business is going to store these bins in front of their customers so they are normally tucked down a lane or at least out of sight of potential customers and normally forgotten about, after all the only person that deals with these bins are the lowest grade in the business or the smoker they volunteer at every opportunity to take the rubbish out, because they want a quick cig, that is where the danger lies they forget how long it has taken to have the cig break and forget almost every time about hygine. run back into the premises without washing their hands and carry on serving or cooking all they are concerned about is did anyone notice how long they have been gone. Now a new trend the younger generation they don’t waste their hard earned cash on cigs they spend it on gadgets and the favorite is the mobile phone they cannot wait to get a minute to check their phones as soon as they deposit the food waste in the bins they are right into their phones and they quickly put them back into their pockets and watch them through the night or day they can’t help but check their phones every two minutes.
    Now for the nasty bit of my story, I could not and have not got the time to tell you what we in our company witness on a daily basis the vermin is horrendous by sheer amounts, bins are supposed to have a tight-fitting lid and kept clean and on occasion disinfected it just does not happen but by the very few. We reckon 99.9% of all food business in all major cities have the very same problem they just do not have their bins cleaned never have and never will, out of sight out of mind, now this year alone I have had the norovirus at least three times and the last I thought was going to kill me, I am a strong person and although aged 70 work full time and enjoy it. I took this matter up with FSA and our Food safety experts and they said that it is not an area that they check and although it states in HACCP that these bins should be cleaned, it does not mean they have to be cleaned so if FSA and local food safety experts don’t see the environmental hazards and the dangers how do you expect mear food handlers and owners to recognize what is a danger. Vermin do not care what bins they go into for food, we also clean as part of our service clean what we call hazardous waste bins in hospitals and nursing homes and in their wisdom planers seem to think it is ok to store all bins together so you have food waste alongside clinical waste and general waste bins, so now we have cross-contamination between clinical waste and food waste and your handlers don’t see the urgent need to wash their hands, waste should be treated the same way as you food ready to be served untill it has been removed from site it is your responsability.
    Gerry Leonard

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