For a small operator, the prospect of utilizing microbial assays to verify the success of a sanitation program might seem intimidating and expensive, but do not hesitate to seek outside help. Once again, there are a number of chemical suppliers and related companies that provide service and assistance in establishing verification and validation programs, including testing and monitoring. Associations also have technical bulletins. The cost of a foodborne illness outbreak would undoubtedly cost more than hiring an outside lab. Again, there is a great deal of variation in how often a company carries out microbial assays to verify the efficacy of its sanitation program.
Remember, the new FSMA may mandate written hazard-control plans, and state departments may extend FSMA requirements even to smaller operators that FSMA exempts. Once a hazard-control plan is in place, you must have verification that it is working effectively. Utilization of visual, chemical, and microbial test methods enforce and ensure that proper sanitary practices are being carried out. The final key piece to any sanitation puzzle, of course, is employee training and implementation of proper sanitary procedures. Practicing all the measures in your plan on a continuous basis will validate the sanitation plan’s efficiency and effectiveness in food processing facility.
Dr. Keener is a professor in the Department of Food Science at Purdue University and is a core faculty member with the VFSTC. This article was written with the assistance of Jacqueline Kochak, who is with the Auburn University Food Systems Institute, home of the VFSTC. Dr. Keener can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.