Environmental Monitoring in Food Safety

At FoodReady food safety software and consulting we get many emails asking about environmental monitoring, what it is and how we can help food businesses perform environmental monitoring. Lucky for you, FoodReady is coming out with an Environmental Monitoring App ...

Environmental Monitoring in Food Safety

At FoodReady food safety software and consulting we get many emails asking about environmental monitoring, what it is and how we can help food businesses perform environmental monitoring. Lucky for you, FoodReady is coming out with an Environmental Monitoring App to help you with these tasks. I will be writing a more in-depth article regarding our Environmental Monitoring app when it becomes available. FoodReady can also help you assess whether an Environmental Monitoring Program should be in place as part of your food safety process.

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What is Environmental Monitoring? 

Environmental monitoring is testing for pathogens such as listeria and salmonella in zones where high-risk foods are processed into ready-to-eat foods (RTEs).  

How is Environmental Monitoring Conducted?

The method for collecting samples is usually through swabbing in different zones and sending the swabs to a lab for processing to determine if pathogens like salmonella, listeria and E.coli (the three most common) are present and contaminating the food. If they are found steps must be taken to remove the pathogens and improve the process to keep them from being reintroduced.

ATP Testing 

An alternative to sending swabs to a lab is ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) testing. ATP is present in all organic matter. A well-cleaned surface should have very small amounts of ATP. A surface that is dirty will have higher levels of ATP. Measuring ATP is a gauge at which to measure how effective your surface cleaning is.

An area of contact is swabbed and the swab is then placed in an ATP tester also known as a luminometer. The luminometer instantly provides a result measured in Relative Light Units or (RLUs). The higher the RLUs the dirtier the surface is and the lower the RLUs the cleaner the surface. A business will set a sanitation standard for RLUs and measure against this unit.

ATPs only relay how well something is cleaned, not the type of pathogens present.

Who Needs Environmental Monitoring?

Environmental monitoring is required for a third party GFSI for producers whose product is exposed to the elements after the kill step and before packaging.

Processed foods that must be refrigerated and are prone to listeria growth.

Ready-to-eat products combined that do not have a kill step.

Contact FoodReady today and get started on your own Environmental Monitoring Program.

FAQs

Yes, environmental monitoring is often required by regulatory authorities and third-party food safety standards, especially for facilities processing high-risk foods. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards, for example, may require environmental monitoring for certain types of products and processing environments. Compliance with these requirements is essential for ensuring food safety and maintaining certifications.
The frequency of environmental monitoring depends on the specific risks associated with the food being processed, the history of contamination in the facility, and regulatory requirements. It’s generally recommended to conduct monitoring at regular intervals that are sufficient to ensure that control measures are effective and that the environment remains safe for food production.
The facility must take immediate corrective actions to eliminate the contamination source, re-clean, re-sanitize, and possibly conduct further testing to ensure safety.
Yes, even small businesses can implement basic environmental monitoring practices, such as ATP testing, to enhance food safety.

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Saro Loucks

Saro Loucks is the Director of Content and a Food Safety Advisor for FoodReady. Saro is certified in HACCP and a trained SQF Practitioner. When Saro is not editing, writing, or advising new customers on what food safety goals they should pursue, she enjoys spending time with her family, baking gluten-free sourdough bread, and playing Mahjong.
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