As the name suggests, Environmental Monitoring Programs (EMPs) involve closely observing and monitoring the environment in which food products are processed and produced. They’re essential for overall health and safety for a wide variety of reasons.

In this blog from ImEPIK, we’ll discuss the top 10 reasons that EMPs are so critical for your food processing facility.

  1. Avoid Food Recalls and Outbreaks

When left unchecked, environmental contamination with pathogens can result in damaging food recalls and outbreaks, leading to plant shutdowns, financial losses, and other related issues.

  1. Ensure Overall Effectiveness of Sanitary Design and Operation Methods

Establishing an Environmental Monitoring Program helps ensure that your overall sanitary design, operating procedures, and policies effectively prevent cross-contamination and pathogen buildup.

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  1. Quickly Identify Pathogenic Organisms

Your EMP can quickly identify the source of a potential pathogen so you can take action to restore the safety of your food processing facility.

  1. Identify Harborage Niches, Hot Spots, and Contamination Sources

Over time, the results of your EMP can help you identify recurring contamination sources, allowing you to take more extensive action to eliminate them and improve your facility’s overall health and safety.

  1. Critical for Documenting Overall Sanitary State of The Facility

Documenting the sanitary state of your food processing facility is required by various federal and state regulations. An EMP is a valuable way to verify the hygienic condition of your plant.

  1. Verification and Validation of Sanitation and Cleaning Programs

Over time, your EMP will help you verify and validate your sanitation and cleaning programs. If, for example, contaminants are frequently present in one particular area of the facility, your sanitation program may need to be adjusted.

  1. Determine When Facility Maintenance is Required

Maintaining an EMP allows you to determine when facility maintenance is required before an audit – for example, replacing filters or other parts of your food processing machinery to maintain health and safety.

  1. Get a Baseline Microbiological Assessment of the Facility Environment

An EMP will help you learn more about the microbiological environment in your facility – and what pathogens or microbes are common or uncommon. This knowledge can provide you with an enhanced ability to track and trace contaminants.

  1. Established EMPs Help Determine Necessary Testing Frequency

Using an EMP to establish testing timing, frequencies, locations, and methods helps determine how often testing should occur. In addition, always taking samples before a zone is sanitized helps show whether there are genuinely contaminants entering that zone.

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  1. Having Established Zones Helps Determine Risk Factors and Extent of Contaminant Spread

EMPs break food facility areas into four “zones.”

  • Zone 1 includes any direct food contact surface, such as worktables, conveyors, blenders, mixers, etc.
  • Zone 2 includes nonfood-contact areas near a direct food contact surface, such as machinery housings or maintenance tools.
  • Zone 3 includes nonfood-contact areas that are not close to Zone 1, such as walls, floors, drains, etc.
  • Zone 4 includes areas remote from food processing, such as offices, locker rooms, maintenance areas, bathrooms, etc.

Establishing these zones and monitoring them helps determine risk factors, the extent of contamination spread, and steps you can take to improve overall safety.

Learn How to Establish an Effective and Safe EMP With ImEPIK

At ImEPIK, food safety is our specialty. If you need assistance developing your Environmental Monitoring Program, we’re here to help.

Contact us via webchat to learn more about courses like PCQI Online.