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Hygiena: Prevent, Protect and Verify

Published 24 July 2017 | By Hygiena International

Each year 1 million people suffer from food borne illnesses; 20,000 people are omitted to hospital, 500 people die and 19 million sick days are taken. What can be done to prevent this?

Food production standards and good manufacturing practices should ensure that the highest standards are followed when food is being handled and prepared.

The main causes of food poisoning incidents are inadequate processing, handling and storage of foodstuff, and cross contamination is a major factor (see figure 1).
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Figure 1: Causes of Food Poisoning

Preventing food poisoning and ensuring safe food is achieved through good personal and food hygiene practices and supported by sound management and training for the control of risks.

Maintaining cleanliness and minimising cross contamination is a fundamental pre-requisite and critical control point of any food safety program, and the principles of HACCP require effective monitoring systems. The visual assessment of cleanliness is unscientific, subjective, unreliable and of questionable value. Simple rapid methods for assessing cleanliness are available and are used by both food processor and inspectors. A FSA funded study showed that alternative rapid methods offered advantages over traditional microbiology testing by reducing costs and providing almost instant results for immediate corrective action.

The use of simple rapid test systems for hygiene monitoring has the following advantages;

  • Prevent cross contamination, improve quality and reduce risk by assessing hazards
  • Protect consumers and the company's reputation
  • Verify and prove that high standards of cleaning and hygiene are achieved and maintained.
  • Demonstrates best practice
  • Identifies potential high risk locations or vulnerable practices. This enables enforcement samples to be collected with confidence thus maximising efficiency and saving costs.

The combination of rapid hygiene test results with other process monitoring data is powerful evidence of sound hygienic practices and control of food safety risks.

Simple Rapid Methods
There are two types of single-shot disposable tests generating results in 1 to 10 minutes as a visible colour change that do not require an instrument. The test format is an all-in-one, ready-to-use swab device that is activated by a simple snap and squeeze action; nothing else is required. The greater the contamination then the faster the colour change occurs and the more intense the colour change.

ProClean detects the presence of protein residues and provides results in 10 minutes. If the surface is clean then a green colour is displayed, if the surface is unclean various shades of purple are displayed. This test is primarily intended for meat processors and butchers but can also be used for catering applications. High sensitivity protein test such as AllerSnap can be used as part of an allergen control program.

SpotCheck Plus detects the presence of simple sugars (specifically glucose and lactose) that are present in most foodstuffs. Results are obtained in 60 seconds and the colour change if from colourless (clean) to green (dirty). This test is faster, more sensitive and detects a broader range of foodstuffs than protein tests such as ProClean. The test is intended to be used by food processors, caterers, restaurants and supermarkets. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) monitoring has been used by the food industry for >30 years and is well accepted giving almost instant quantitative results in 15 seconds. The technology is called bioluminescence because it uses a light emitting enzyme reaction. The test systems consist of an all-in-one, ready-to-use test devices and a small portable instrument to convert the light signal into a numerical output. Modern electronics and design have made ATP systems affordable to a wide range of user's e.g. SystemSURE Plus by Hygiena International. This system is calibrated and has a quantitative output that is directly proportional to both food residues and micro-organisms. The greater the numerical output and ATP content of the sample, then the greater the level of contamination and potential risk.

ATP bioluminescence is the most sensitive hygiene testing system that detects a wider range of foodstuffs than colour tests. The results are date stamped and traceable and can be downloaded to computer for further data analysis, report writing and provides evidence of due diligence.

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Hygiena's developments ATP technology is a more sensitive instrument EnSURE and more specific tests that can all be performed on the same system e.g. SuperSnap, MicroSnap; ZymoSnap ALP; CrossCheck. These enable the detection of specific residues (giving results in minutes) as well as the detection and enumeration of specific bacteria giving results within a working day or shift of 7 hours.

Cleaning and environmental monitoring are critical for allergen control. A combination of three high sensitivity detection methods (ATP, protein and specific allergen tests) provides a more comprehensive, sensitivity and rapid result that deliver a timely cost effective solution. The regular use of high sensitivity ATP and high sensitivity protein tests enable high standards of cleaning to be maintained that can be supplemented with specific allergen tests less frequently and as required.

Summary
It is accepted that rapid testing methods that detect food product residues on product contact surfaces provide a direct, objective and relevant measurement of cleaning efficiency, hygiene and risk. Rapid results from hygiene monitoring systems mean instant corrective action can be taken to avoid potential compromises to quality, food safety and minimise the risk of food poisoning. Several cost effective test systems are available.