Would you be prepared if the FDA showed up at your facility unexpectedly to perform a swabathon? The FDA is conducting these elevated inspections by swabbing ready-to-eat (RTE) and high-risk food manufacturing facilities in search of foodborne pathogens. To help prepare manufacturers for these swabathons, our subject matter expert, Tim Freier, Ph.D., sat down to answer some questions posed by food industry professionals following our recent swabathon webinar, which is available to stream on-demand for free. Continue Reading

Major developments in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have given the FDA new authority under the law. If the FDA decides to conduct a swabathon at your facility, you should expect a minimum of 100 to 300 swabs to be taken and a team of several investigators to conduct the swabathon. Based on the type of swabathon, you may also be required to hold production in your facility. This need is based on several factors, but, in particular, the zones that will be tested.

The FDA’s goal is to find pathogen isolates of Salmonella and or Listeria monocytogenes in and around the processing environment. As an outcome, the FDA will subsequently perform Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) on these Listeria monocytogenes isolates for their database. The FDA is now swabbing Zone 4 specifically for this purpose, with a WGS analysis of Salmonella expected to follow. The FDA’s zone focus will differ based on the environment and the specific pathogen they are seeking out. For Listeria monocytogenes, you can expect the FDA to begin sampling no sooner than 4 hours into production. Continue Reading

Many companies have Environmental Monitoring Programs (EMPs) setup to monitor the processing (and surrounding) environments for transient pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. However, it is important to realize that growth niches are likely to occur from these transient guests. If your EMP does not include a “seek and destroy mission,” an event section, (i.e. increasing swab surveillance with roof leaks, construction, etc) or is simply not robust enough, then routine monitoring may be insufficient protection against an FDA swabathon. Additionally, if your site selection is fixed, new sites aren’t being rotated in, a low number of swabs are being taken, you have an infrequent swabbing schedule and corrective actions are not being implemented, the same result will surely occur.
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The top priority for most food manufacturers is protecting the food consumers eat. Yet, one of the major causes of product recalls in the food industry is product contamination in the processing environment by pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. These pathogens take up residence within the structure of food plants and within the processing equipment itself. Once it makes a home there, it can contaminate the food products it comes into contact with as they make their way through the production process. Continue Reading