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  • John Simpson

Staying Ahead of Pathogens: The Critical Need for Ongoing Optimisation in Hygiene Testing

Throughout the multi-layered and interdependent supply chain of food manufacturing, the threat of foodborne pathogens is ever-present. As these pathogens evolve, so too must our strategies for combating them. Continuous improvement in hygiene testing is a critical strategy to ensure the safety and quality of food products. In this article we examine the importance of a proactive hygiene testing plan, illustrated through the experiences of two confectionary companies where we have created fictional names for data privacy purposes: Company A: “FreshChoc”, using FreshCheck’s innovative system, and Company B “ChocoATP”, relying on traditional ATP testing.

hygiene targets

Setting Up and Implementing Your Hygiene Testing Plan

Establishing a robust hygiene plan begins with creating a comprehensive baseline that covers all critical control points. For FreshChoc, this meant adopting FreshCheck’s swab-based colour change hygiene verification system. This system, designed for simplicity and ease of use, allows FreshChoc to map out the critical hygiene control locations in their daily test plan and swiftly swab areas and observe a colour change indicating cleanliness or contamination within seconds . This user-friendly approach ensures that staff at all levels can effectively perform hygiene checks without requiring extensive technical training. In contrast, ChocoATP’s reliance on traditional ATP testing involves using luminometers and ATP swabs. While effective, this method is more complex, requiring specific storage conditions and careful handling to avoid false results. Despite these challenges and cost implications, ChocoATP establishes and executes a thorough initial testing regime.

Risk Assessment and Testing Frequency

Following 3 months of daily testing and consistent results that cleaning practices are working both companies start by scaling back testing to 3 times a week. In response to assessments of risk following initial intensive testing, both companies ensure regular testing continues to avoid lapses in hygiene standards.

Regular Review and Optimisation of the Hygiene Plan

A hygiene plan should be dynamic, adapting to new threats and improving over time based on collected data. For FreshChoc, this means quarterly reviews of their hygiene plan using the FreshCheck app, which records and analyses swab test data in real time. This digital tool not only facilitates compliance with regulatory standards but also helps in maintaining an auditable trail of hygiene practices. The result is a proactive approach, allowing FreshChoc to preemptively address potential issues and optimise cleaning schedules.

ChocoATP, however, faces challenges with traditional ATP testing. The lack of easy access to digital analysis and the higher costs associated with frequent ATP testing can create gaps in hygiene measures. Implementing cloud-based systems and smart devices could alleviate some of these issues, offering more accessible and actionable data for regular review.

Handling Contamination and Recall Events

When a contamination event occurs, swift and decisive action is critical. FreshChoc leverages FreshCheck’s advanced data analytics to quickly identify and isolate contamination sources, minimising the scope of potential recalls. Increased testing and investigation are initiated immediately, and the insights provided by FreshCheck’s system enable targeted corrective actions.

ChocoATP’s approach, on the other hand, often lacks the real-time data insights offered by FreshCheck. This can delay the identification of contamination sources and extend the time needed to resolve the issue. Without advanced analytics, managing a contamination event becomes more reactive, potentially increasing the risk of widespread recalls.

Post-Event Actions and De-escalation

Once contamination issues are resolved, returning to normal operations requires careful management. FreshChoc uses the comprehensive data collected during the incident to ensure that corrective actions have been effective before scaling back testing. This ensures continued vigilance and confidence in their hygiene standards.

For ChocoATP, the absence of detailed, real-time data makes it challenging to determine when it is safe to return to baseline operations. The process relies more on manual oversight and less on precise data analysis, which can prolong the de-escalation phase and increase operational costs. Ongoing Optimisation

The case studies of FreshChoc and ChocoATP highlights the critical need for ongoing optimisation in hygiene testing. FreshChoc’s use of FreshCheck’s innovative system demonstrates the advantages of faster response times, precise data analysis, and overall cost-effectiveness in managing hygiene. These benefits underscore the importance of adopting advanced hygiene testing solutions to stay ahead of pathogens and ensure food safety.

Food manufacturers must consider upgrading their hygiene testing systems to enhance their proactive measures and maintain high standards in the ever-evolving food industry. By leveraging tools like FreshCheck, companies can achieve a comprehensive, efficient, and demonstrably due diligence approach to food safety.


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