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Jul 17, 2018Print this page

Food Safety Testing – Which Swabs and Transport Medium Should You Use?


With summer in full swing and the International Association of Food Protection's 2018 Conference recently concluded in Salt Lake City, food safety testing is on all of our minds. As we approach the annual IAFP meeting in August, food safety testing is on all of our minds. 

Food safety best practices dictate that all food production and service companies establish and abide by a comprehensive environmental sampling program that includes regular swabbing for pathogens. 

A comprehensive program helps ensure effective hygiene procedures that protect both your customers from illness and your organization from lawsuits linked to improper food handling. For the most effective results, you need to swab both food preparation surfaces and random selections of food itself for microorganisms. 

What's the best way to ensure your team actually follows your environmental sampling program?

Here are two great first steps:

  • Having the right products on hand
  • Having a clear understanding of correct sample collection methods

Stock the Right Sampling Medium

First, you’ll want to ensure you’ve got the correct environmental transport medium. Choose a line of sampling kits with multiple pre-filled media options, so you can select one that is right for your food safety application. 

For microbiological examination of surfaces for food and dairy products, you'll want to use a Neutralizing buffer. This is mostly because of its ability to neutralize the antibacterial effect of disinfectants like chlorine and ammonium. This ensures that even after an initial cleaning, bacteria if present, will survive for sampling.  

Tests with a neutralizing buffer can indicate whether sanitation procedures are effective. You can also choose a  solution of 50% neutralizing buffer and 50% .01% peptone water found in our certain foam-tipped swabs described below. 

Choose Foam Tipped Swabs

You'll want to ensure you’re using the appropriate sampling collection device.  A number of systems are available for testing environmental surfaces for food safety applications. 

The benefits of foam-tipped swabs like these for food safety testing 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.

 Puritan’s EnviroMax®/EnviroMax Plus® Environmental Sampling Swabs are available sterile or non-sterile with both round and pointed foam tips.

However, for the detection of norovirus, we recommend a system featuring a round, firm foam-tipped swab and collection tube designed specifically for detecting human norovirus. These systems are comprised of a 6-inch dry swab with a lollipop shaped macro foam paddle tip in a collection tube.  The swab is securely attached to a quick-turn-open leak resistant cap.

 These tools developed for the detection of norovirus are manufactured under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocol designed to assist in determining the level of environmental contamination during outbreaks. They help you detect viruses when clinical samples are not available and monitor the effectiveness of cleaning practices. 

Correct Food Sample Testing: Video How-Tos

We created the following videos as past of an educational series about how to collect environmental samples for various applications.  Both of which are applicable to food safety validation.

Click to Watch: How To Collect an Environmental Sample from a Meat Carcass


(Click here for step-by-step transcript)


Click to Watch: How To Collect an Environmental Surface Sample from a Stainless Steel Countertop



(Click here for step-by-step transcript)

Click here to view additional product videos. 

If you would like more information about food safety testing or which products to choose, please contact one of our knowledgeable product specialists today. 

Download the Environmental Surface Testing Checklist

Topics: Media Transport Systems, Environmental and Food Safety


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