According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die every year from foodborne illness. Some of the causes are disease-causing microbes or pathogens, such as the Norovirus, Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. Poisonous chemicals and other substances are also guilty of causing foodborne diseases—of which there are more than 250.
It is, unfortunately, far too easy for food to become contaminated as it's produced and processed.
Healthy meat and poultry can become tainted during slaughter by contact with intestinal contents. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be contaminated if they are washed or irrigated with contaminated water. Healthy-looking hen eggs can be contaminated with Salmonella even before the shell is formed. Shigella bacteria, hepatitis A, and Norovirus can be introduced by the unwashed hands of infected food handlers.
Though the cost to human wellness and life is greatest, foodborne illness also has serious financial implications. The United States Department of Agriculture estimated these illnesses are annually costing the economy more than $15.6 billion. The number is shocking on its own, but even more so when you consider this public health burden is largely preventable.
Food production and processing organizations must make sanitation procedures a top priority. To that end, they should align themselves with a top-flights manufacturer of food safety and environmental surface sampling devices. Manufacturers often offer excellent tools and resources for food handlers who collect and test food for bacterial pathogens. Take swabs, for example.
Here's a look at which environmental surface sampling swabs and kits are best for the right application.
Test Meat for Pathogens With EnviroMax Plus®
Regular quality and hygiene control are critical in all meat plants. Where pathogen testing is concerned in this industry, speed is second only to accuracy. Companies want to get their products out the door quickly and they need to be confident the meat does not contain parasites or bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.
A firm foam-tipped swab is best for rapid and effective safety testing. The benefits of environmental foam-tipped sampling swabs are their large tip, which increases sample and elution counts, and their rigid paddle-like design, which allows for the firm and even application of pressure necessary for adequate sample collection. The most effective foam-tipped swabs come with their own transport vials. For ease of use, you remove the swab from its vial, collect the sample, and return the swab to the vial.
For a step-by-step guide on how to test meat with foam-tipped swabs, read this instructional blog post and check out the following video below.
Watch: How to Collect an Environmental Sample from a Meat Carcass
Protect Your Poultry
Avian influenza (AI) can absolutely devastate poultry farms. One simple way to check the health of your chickens and turkeys is with blood tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. According to the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, testing reduces the risk of spreading AI strains and maintains the safety of the controlled marketing process, while allowing producers to recover value from infected poultry.
The PCR test is perhaps the least invasive: take hold of a bird, open its mouth, and swab the throat. That's it. So which of the food handlers swabs is the best fit? Choosing a flock swab with a miniature or ultrafine tip is ideal for taking samples of the trachea or oropharynx and cloaca.
Routine monitoring of your poultry for the presence of other respiratory and infectious diseases is no less important. Flocked swabs make the random sampling process for such tests easier for the staff, less injurious to the birds, and more efficient for processing.
Keep Bacteria Out of Your Brewery With an ESK®
As more and more small-scale breweries ramp up their production, sanitation procedures must follow suit. During the grain malting process, cereal grains are eventually converted to sugars, which are gradually consumed by yeast as the beer ferments.
The high-sugar environment is where bacteria can thrive and multiply, potentially ruining a batch, or worse, contributing to the contamination of an entire facility. Tools such as environmental sampling kits can provide an appropriate food safety testing solution for microbreweries or home-brew facilities.
Companies can validate the food safety procedures at your home or microbrewery by swabbing for bacterial growth in areas through which the beer passes. Morebeer.com recommends "swabbing all areas which should be clean and sterile, including: cleaned-in-place fermenter hose ends, exit ports from hard piping, the plate cooler, or the filter." You may also want to swab keg interiors and filling heads.
You'll want to use swabs that allow you to get into hard-to-reach areas where contaminants may be hidden. And the small polyester tip and quick-turn, leak resistant cap make for a proper environmental transport medium.
So as you can see, different food safety environments call for different testing materials. To learn more about using Puritan as your source for food handlers swabs, contact one of our knowledgeable product specialists today.