Addressing yeast and mold contamination in an environmental monitoring program

Scientist speaking to his colleague holding clipboard in the facIn food manufacturing plants, monitoring the production environment is a focal point of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). To do this successfully, plants should develop an environmental monitoring program, which includes the implementation of clear, preventative actions that should be taken to eliminate non-compliant levels from occurring. In the case that a test area is found to be out of compliance, employees should document the actions taken to address the situation on a Corrective Action Report (CAR).

In some food facilities, detecting yeast and mold, fungal organisms that break down plant and food waste, are a part of this effort. Although yeast and molds thrive in damp dark areas and only need a small amount of moisture to grow, they are able to thrive in a wide range of environments. Common trouble spots where yeast and mold thrive are air handling units and the outside of wet pipes. These places provide a dark, damp, and out of the way area for yeast and mold growth.

Yeast and molds are often brought into a food facility on employee clothing or tracked in via dirt from shoes. Because of this, yeast and molds can be transported easily throughout a food production environment and can be picked up and transported by way of uniforms, shoes, or in air currents.

The best ways to combat yeast and mold product contamination includes maintaining a clean uniform, using additional protective layers in areas where the finished product is open to the environment, and ensuring positive air pressure in your facility. Positive air pressure involves pumping clean, filtered air into important areas of your facility to prevent air from other uncontrolled sources from entering. This filtered air also “blows off’ employees as they enter, and is key in product processing areas.

Monitoring the air flow in your plant on a predetermined basis will help ensure that environmental organisms, like yeast and mold, do not cross over to processing areas in your facility from non-processing areas, such as a warehouse.

Mold also thrives on the underside of tanks close to the ground and on the underside of skids, the raised frame machines sit on. This makes it extremely important to be mindful of these areas when testing for yeast and molds and to diligently follow a sanitation schedule, or a predefined plan for cleaning an area. This ensure areas are cleaned regularly and with the proper concentrations of cleaners and disinfectants.

It is equally important to develop a comprehensive sampling plan that includes the monitoring of low and high traffic zones. This will help you become aware of any contaminants creeping into your facility and allow you to take corrective action earlier rather than later.

For yeast and mold testing, Neogen offers both traditional methods through our line of Acumedia® products, and rapid methods through our Soleris® product line. Soleris provides speed and automation in your environmental monitoring workflow, while using a minimal lab footprint.

In order to ensure the safety and quality of products, environmental monitoring should be completed at various zones throughout the production process. Neogen can assist you through our sensitive line of environmental monitoring solutions to screen for contaminants such as yeast and mold. Click here or contact Neogen to learn more about yeast and mold testing.

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