Preventing Food Poisoning at Source

Most people have been unfortunate enough to experience at least one bout of food poisoning at some time their lives. For most it is an unpleasant, but not life-threatening occurrence, but in some cases, it can be extremely serious. Children under five and older people are most at risk because they may have weaker immune systems. Food poisoning results from food products containing bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella and campylobacter, with campylobacter being the most common culprit in the UK. One particularly dangerous, although much rarer, form of food poisoning is listeriosis, which is caused by Listeria. Nearly everyone infected is hospitalized, with one in five people dying from the disease.

How to prevent food poisoning

Unfortunately, there is almost an acceptance that some foodstuffs will contain these unwanted bacteria, and there is plenty of advice available to people about how to handle and cook food to minimize any possible effects. But this is all changing, especially in the USA, where the emphasis has changed for food manufacturers and processors. The recently introduced Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is switching the requirement for food safety to preventing contamination during manufacture instead of just responding to it. Food manufacturers must be diligent with cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing of their storage, preparation and manufacturing facilities. However, keeping the entire processing plant free of Listeria and any other pathogens not only requires specific tools and cleaning procedures, but also a dedicated program of sampling and testing within the facility to make sure that these procedures are effective. This in turn requires a way of managing these associated sampling and testing regimes. The results of the testing must be monitored to identify any trends in contamination levels. Listeria contamination, for example, can occur throughout a facility, including in cold storage areas. If contamination takes hold, stock in the supply chain is usually lost and the entire manufacturing plant may need deep cleaning, leading to lost production, lost stock and potential litigation costs of thousands to millions of dollars.

Typical Environmental Monitoring Screen to link location to test results

Managing the testing

With so much at stake, help is at hand in the form of Autoscribe’s Matrix Gemini Environmental Monitoring (EM) module from Autoscribe Informatics which provides the required framework to document procedures, map the identified sampling points to the facility, define the sampling regime and record the results of environmental testing. This approach encapsulates food safety/food sanitation monitoring best practices and fulfills FSMA/HACCP food safety compliance and CGMP requirements. Any required corrective actions can be identified and managed. The result trending features provide an early warning of potential contamination problems before they become violations, thus helping to avoid the potential of lost production. By logging all food safety actions with a complete audit trail, the system provides fully documented evidence of the actions that have been taken. The Autoscribe EM module supports proactive problem prevention, not just problem detection, thereby allowing production and sales to continue uninterrupted. This is an approach that saves companies the headache of discovering a problem too late!