During the current coronavirus pandemic, hospitals around the world are stretching resources to meet patient demand. While a lot of the food supply chain’s focus is also on COVID-19, unfortunately, Salmonella, pathogenic E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and other environmental pathogens continue to represent potential public health risks. This makes it increasingly critical that food manufacturers continue to uphold programs and practices to ensure a safe food supply chain and reduce the load on the healthcare system.
One way to help meet that expectation is by having an Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) in place. In general, the EMP will assess the overall effectiveness of sanitary design, personnel practices, and operational methods, providing crucial information on potential microbial harborage sites and other indicator microorganisms in your facility. Based on this information, your food safety team should take appropriate corrective actions to assure the safety of the finished product.
Environmental Monitoring Programs & COVID-19
While SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is not an environmental pathogen and there is currently no evidence of food transmitting the virus, an EMP can help determine your facility’s approach to dealing with the virus. Based on current research, standard cleaning and sanitation procedures that are part of every food processing operation to remove common foodborne bacterial pathogens, are also sufficient to eliminate this virus from contact surfaces. An EMP can help verify that these procedures are adequate to keep indicator organisms and any pathogenic organisms of particular concern in check, while also assessing the risk to employee health.
Coronavirus Environmental Swabs
Additionally, if an employee tests positive for the virus, you can also use coronavirus environmental swabs designed specifically for contact surfaces. These results will help you determine whether updated cleaning and sanitation procedures are necessary.
While the risks to food safety remain the same, right now, it’s critical that the industry continues to raise the standard for food safety.
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