Efficient Hygiene Testing Essential to the Food and Beverage Industry

Anyone familiar with the story of the hapless young women who became known as “Typhoid Mary” is certain to understand the importance of hygiene testing in any situation that involves the preparation and serving of food. Born Mary Mallon, the Irish immigrant eventually sought work as a cook in the New York City area, working for a total of seven families between 1900 and 1907, in each case moving on following outbreaks of illness in the families that were later attributed to typhoid fever. It is believed that her employment may have resulted in a total of 22 cases that included 3 fatalities,

Mary was eventually traced and, following a medical examination that subsequently revealed her to be the first known case of an asymptomatic carrier of a pathogenic microorganism, she was forced to live in isolation. Since then, carrier status has been found to be far more widespread and equally applicable to a substantial number of other organisms including Staphylococci and Streptococcal species. In most cases, appropriate antibiotic therapy will eliminate carrier status.

Pathogenic organisms such as Salmonella typhi are excreted in the urine and faeces so, in addition to hygiene testing, sound regulation regarding personal hygiene are also essential to all food handlers. A single contaminated fingerprint left on a preparation surface could represent several times the minimal infective dose (MID) and could contaminate an entire batch of product which, if not detected, could trigger an epidemic. Clearly, any tests performed will need to target all of the machinery used in the preparation of food, all surfaces with which it may come into contact and the packaging that will contain it, as well as the workers responsible for each stage in the handing process and the finished product.

In the past, this type of quality control was hampered by the lengthy periods of incubation required to confirm or to eliminate the presence of bacteria in the test samples by checking for the physical evidence of microbial growth on or in various artificial culture media, and under differing atmospheric conditions. In the light of today’s vastly increased consumer demand, faster, more sensitive, yet equally reliable, methods of hygiene testing have since been developed. Rather than relying upon the physical and chemical characteristics of cultured bacterial colonies, modern hygiene testing methods employ specific chemical reactions to reveal their presence without the need for cultures.

Samples may be collected by direct swabbing of surfaces or the use of rinse water, which may then be tested for the presence of ATP, a compound associated with the activity of living cells. This is achieved by mixing the sample with the naturally occurring firefly enzyme known as luciferase. In the presence of ATP, the enzyme produces light, the intensity of which can be measured with an instrument known as a luminometer.

Test kits that include samplers for use in various situations, high-quality reagents, advanced readers with RFID technology for sample identification, and data management software for generating sanitation reports are manufactured by Neogen and are capable of producing a result within just 20 seconds. For these innovative hygiene testing kits and other world-class food quality control products in South Africa, IEPSA is the supplier of choice.

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