One of the centerpieces of The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) focuses on preventative sanitation control, requiring manufacturers to implement a food safety plan to control hazards that can potentially introduce microorganisms into the finished product. Due to the heightened emphasis on prevention, an effective environmental monitoring system (EMS) provides manufacturers with critical data and information on the microbiological condition of their plants. When these systems are not correctly implemented and maintained, plants are at a greater risk of encountering safety issues that can result in increased liability exposure.

You may be asking yourself “How do I stay away from all of these negative consequences and how can I ensure I have a reliable EMS program?” Some answers to this common inquiry can be found below:

1. Perform a Risk Assessment
A comprehensive evaluation of science-based food safety risks must be analyzed as all food processing facilities have their own unique environment. Best practices must be appropriately selected and validated along with research into the type of spoilage organisms and pathogens inherent to your facility. Certain manufacturing facilities will not necessarily need an EMS, so be sure to gauge your needs and establish all potential risks from the start of your evaluation.

2. Implement an Environmental Sampling Plan
Each facility must have a specific environmental monitoring sampling plan based on the above-mentioned risk assessment. The risk assessment will help create a well-designed, robust and dynamic sampling plan. Important components of a sampling plan include area or zone breakdown, how often and when sampling will be conducted, and the number of environmental samples to collect. Sampling should be performed at random, specifically at sites most likely to harbor microbial growth.

3. Educate and Train
Management must be committed to implementing and organizing an appropriate program specific to their production environment. Facility leadership must understand the importance of the program and must emphasize the risks and implications to everyone involved, from the corporate suite to the plant floor. Appropriate resources to train and educate employees must be considered a top priority when planning or modifying your current EMS.

4. Implement and Maintain Trend Analysis & Data Management
Thorough evaluation of results and the related corrective actions are imperative. Utilize trend analysis in order to determine sanitation effectiveness and identify variations over time. Organized result data spreadsheets and facility maps indicating EMS findings will aid in the discovery of root causes to sanitation issues.

Many facilities are strengthening their environmental monitoring programs in order to increase food safety awareness and minimize overall risk. Take a thorough look at your own program to ensure it is functioning at the highest level possible. A successful EMS program may seem daunting and expensive to implement, but the benefits of having an effective program pale in comparison to the possible negative consequences of a faulty system.

Click here to download our “Environmental Monitoring FAQs.

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