Checklist To Your EMP Program

Risk Assessment

The first step is to complete a risk assessment of biological  hazards in your facility. You have likely already started this as part of your hazard analysis. Take into account your ingredients, the flow of production, your facility, and the nature of your operation to identify which specific pathogens may exist in – or enter- your environment.

Sampling Plan

Your next step is to create your environmental sampling plan, including the 4 major elements below.

1. Create a map of your facility, separated into Hygienic Zones

Zone 1 All food contact surfaces
Zone 2 Nonfood contact surfaces which are closely adjacent to food contact surfaces. These areas could lead to direct contamination of the food contact surfaces (Zone 1). Examples include overpasses, control panels, equipment legs, metal detectors, drip shields, hollow pipes and rollers, door gaskets, etc.
Zone 3 Nonfood contact surfaces that are not adjacent to food contact surfaces (Zone 1). Pathogens in this zone could cause contamination to Zone 2 through employee’s actions or movement of machinery. Examples of Zone 3 areas include forklifts, walls, floors, drains, plant entrances, etc.
Zone 4 Areas outside the processing environment. Examples include the warehouse, offices, locker rooms, washrooms, lunchrooms, etc.

2. Define a procedure for exactly how you will collect your samples

Who will perform the sampling? When will the sampling be done? What types of samples will be taken (Air, Swab, Water)? Have instructions for taking each type of sample. What sampling supplies will you use?

3. Define how often you will conduct each type of sampling (Air, Swabbing, water, etc.)

Will you conduct sampling daily, weekly, etc.

4. Define where you will take samples and what type of samples they will be (Air, swabbing, etc.).

For each of your Hygienic Zones, what are the exact locations from which you will be sampling? What will you be testing for on each sample? How many samples will be taken from each area or piece of equipment?

Need help with your environmental sampling plan? AEMTEK’s experts are available and ready to help! Contact us.

Plan for Analysis

Define what tests need to be done and how you will have the samples analyzed. Will you use a third-party laboratory? If so, include the name of the Laboratory, ensure they are properly accredited, and keep their accreditations on file in this section.

View AEMTEK’s accreditations here

Learn more about AEMTEK’s Environmental Monitoring Testing

Corrective Action Procedures

Define how you will respond to a positive result on one of your samples. What will you do?

Negative EMP Results Aren’t Always Good

Negative pathogen testing results could mean that your environment is squeaky clean (congratulations!). However, it could also mean that you’re just not looking hard enough! Never having a pathogen detection in your environmental monitoring program could indicate there are gaps in your sampling plan. Perhaps the plan simply isn’t representative enough of the environment and is not doing its job.

Quality Assurance Managers should think of their Environmental Swabbing as a hunt for pathogens, instead of as a test to pass or fail for their auditors to see. You want to ensure that you have checked every nook and cranny and feel confident that there is no way these sneaky pathogens could have evaded your swabbing protocol and cause subsequent contamination in your facility.

Remember, pathogens can enter the production environment at any time they have a chance. The job of the environmental monitoring  program is to ensure that the sanitation protocol has completely eliminated any pathogens that have entered the facility before they cause contamination. Wouldn’t you rather get a positive sponge test, letting you know to re-sanitize, than not find out about the contamination until it shows up on an analysis of a finished good, or causes illness to customers?

Concerned your EMP may not be thorough enough? Contact our experts for a review of your current EMP!

If You Test For Listeria, Should You Also Test For Salmonella?

The vehicles by which Listeria enters a food production facility are largely also sources by which Salmonella makes its way into the environment, such as through contaminated soil, fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. Once these organisms enter the production environment, they can grow, spread, and make their way into products, causing contamination.

It can be easy to pass over Salmonella as a risk in your cold, refrigerated environments seeing as those conditions do not support the growth of the pathogen. However, while Salmonella maybe not able to grow under the same refrigerated conditions that Listeria can, it does survive in them. In fact, Salmonella can survive in most conditions under which Listeria can grow, maintaining the risk for contamination and subsequently illness. Therefore, if your environmental monitoring program includes swabbing for Listeria, you might want to consider taking samples for Salmonella testing as well.

Think this might apply to you? Contact us to find out!