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.
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.
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).
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.
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
- 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.