In terms of improving from average to best, the average plants file the laboratory reports after reviewing. The good plants summarize Listeria findings in a table with when and where they occurred. The better plants assemble a multidisciplinary team to take actions. Some better facilities color-code routine, intensified, and investigative vector Listeria findings on plant schematics with areas, zones, and equipment, and overlay these with transparent flow diagrams (e.g. people flow, product flow, and drainage flow). The best plants go one step further by taking a science-based and systematic seek and destroy (S&D) approach to identify, control, and eliminate Listeria growth niches proactively.
Development of growth niches is facilitated by equipment design problems (e.g. slicing equipment or hollow areas of equipment) and unsatisfactory operational conditions (e.g. food debris gets into difficult-to-clean locations, mid-shift cleanup, and high-pressure cleaning). If growth niches are not designed out of the process, they should be controlled by minimizing their contamination potential. The best plants validate the sanitation standard operating procedures to prevent biofilm formation in the growth niches. Tools for biofilm detection should be used during pre-operation to verify sanitation efficacy, and during and after investigation to verify corrective actions. There are two steps in S&D. Firstly, the team disassembles equipment to a routine daily sanitation level, inspects the disassembled equipment for organic buildup and growth niches, conducts microbiological tests if growth niches are identified, and evaluates the sanitation method during pre-operation. Secondly, the team repeats step one on the completely disassembled equipment.
Are you ready to use the eight “W”s to improve your risk-based EMP from average to good, better, or best RTE food plant status for regulatory compliance, recall prevention, audit readiness, brand protection, and customer and consumer satisfaction?
Dr. Lee is a senior microbiologist and senior food safety specialist at NSF International. Reach her at email@example.com.