Determining the proper sampling frequency, analyzing the data collected over time, and choosing the right methods and test points are all central elements of a robust sampling, testing, and monitoring plan. Consistent data is derived from instruments and test kits that are calibrated and tested for accuracy on a routine basis. Individuals who collect the samples are trained systematically in order to reduce, as much as possible, human variability. These individuals know they will be required by both internal and external audits to show their results and demonstrate that proper action took place should a fail occur. For these reasons, having a system that automates retrieval and management of this data is of immense value. For example, the new 3M Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System software provides a versatile platform to support managing and analyzing hygiene monitoring data for informed decision making.
Following Instructions at the Speed of Light
Food safety managers don’t just need their results to be fast; they need them to be precise and accurate. Scientists and engineers have therefore begun focusing on enhancements to improve testing speed, precision, and accuracy. To do that, rather than the standard photodiode and silicon-based instrumentation, top developers have selected photomultiplier detection technology—the gold standard in scientific fields ranging from astronomy to medical imaging and medical device instrumentation to radiation.
Photomultiplier detection technology is about two times faster and 100 times more sensitive to light than photodiode-based solutions. Whereas photodiode-based systems require, on average, 12 to 15 seconds to measure, a photomultiplier-based device, such as the 3M Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System luminometer, requires only 7 seconds. Some photomultiplier tubes are so sensitive that they are able to detect a single photon in one second. By contrast, the human eye can’t notice anything smaller than 100,000 photons per second.
Yet even with inspiring technology emerging that promises to make the cleaning verification process more reliable than ever, it remains critical that the food safety professional adhere to protocol and follow instructions. When it comes to the specific technique of swabbing or sponging samples, for instance, the most simple, yet most important thing is to consistently follow the guidance and protocols provided by the manufacturer of the product being used. It is this attention to detail that keeps the human element in check during the process of determining whether a food preparation surface or piece of equipment is acceptably clean. Accuracy is critical in hygiene monitoring; precision and reliability mean everything, and “close enough” is not acceptable.
Working with the right tools, understanding cleaning and sanitizing standards and processes, and recognizing the importance of verification will ensure that food safety professionals are effectively mitigating the risk to public health and to their company’s brand.
Dr. González is a member of the Global Food Safety Team within 3M. He brings over a decade of practical food safety and quality management experience across a broad variety of food platforms spanning from perishables to dry and low moisture foods, with primary focus on risk mitigation and brand protection. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.