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Episode 5: Complex Swabbing Patterns

Episode 5: Complex Swabbing Patterns

Environmental Monitoring Programs

We continue our look at advanced practices in environmental monitoring in the 5th episode of this video series. We need to look at strategies and patterns for swabbing to assure that we are successful in tracking down pathogens, and eradicating them before they get near areas where equipment or product is at risk.

Deciding where to swab in GMP areas, and how to adapt and change locations over time can be confusing and overwhelming for safety and quality personnel. Remember, the fear of finding pathogens in the facility does not make sense, as the pathogens being in the facility is the problem, not your test results. Those pathogens can ruin a food business whether there are environmental monitoring results showing a pathogen is in the facility or not.

An effective environmental monitoring program should have a strategic and at least partially randomized movement of swab locations to assure that monitoring does not become too narrow.

The first such strategy is to select the highest risk areas and establish a set number of swabs very close to that area, followed by a moving of swabs away from those high risk areas towards areas deemed lower risk.

Remember that the swab schedule and site location list are required tools for the program, and can be used to plan ahead on when sites are going to be swabbed in the future.

Effective environmental monitoring, trending analysis and training on monitoring in addition to careful follow up where risk is identified is also an example of a culture of safety and quality in the facility, and can be used as an example when demonstration of a culture of safety and quality are requested.

In our next episode, we are going to look at the special example of swabbing programs in an FSIS regulated facility which is often different from the swabbing programs we have described in this video series so far.

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