It is critical to monitor the hygienic environment in the food manufacturing facility for the production of high quality and safe food products. An environmental monitoring program (EMP) will assess the effectiveness of the overall hygienic practices in a facility and provide necessary information to prevent possible microbial contamination of food products. It provides valuable data (source and concentration) on indicator organisms, spoilage organisms, and pathogens of concern in a timely manner. To reduce the risk of microbial product contamination, one must have insight into implementing an effective EMP in a food facility and properly interpreting the data to initiate appropriate corrective actions.
Some of the key benefits of EMP are that it:
• Measures the overall effectiveness of sanitary design, personnel practices, and operational methods.
• Provides information (source and concentration) about indicator organisms, spoilage organisms, and/or pathogens of concern in a timely manner, so that appropriate corrective actions can be initiated to prevent potential microbial outbreaks.
• Acts as an early warning system for microbiological hazards in both the production and post-production environment when well-developed and effectively implemented as an integral component of prerequisite programs.
• Helps to identify harborage niches and hot spots in a plant that may act as a source of contamination.
• Is a critical aspect of documenting the overall sanitary state of the facility.
• Validates the sanitation program and helps in determining the frequency required for cleaning and sanitation.
EMP is not designed to validate the effectiveness of cleaning and sanitizing methods, but is more focused on validating cleaning and sanitizing frequencies, and all the programs of the Good Manufacturing Practices (21 CFR).