Environmental Monitoring Program (EMPs) Searching, Seek & Destroy

Part 1: Seek

Seek and destroy! Who would have thought that 35 years ago, Metallica would have a song that could easily be adopted by food safety professionals as their anthem in controlling pathogens in a food handling environment?

EMPs are nothing new to the food industry. However, drivers like the recently released FDA’s Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Foods Draft Guidance[1] or voluntarily programs through the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) auditing programs like Safe Quality Food (SQF)[2] or British Retail Consortium (BRC)[3] have raised the bar in how an EMP is administered. Gone are the days of testing the same 50-100 sites in your facility over and over and getting negatives. There is now an expectation to diligently look for (seek) and eliminate (destroy) pathogens in the food handling and processing environment. 

We’re scanning the scene in the city tonight
We’re looking for you to start up a fight[4]

What does this raised expectation really mean for the average food plant? At a minimum, it means a thorough review and revision of their existing EMP, potentially causing an increase in the number of test sites that are sampled that might pose some problems. Anecdotally, the average plant uses Excel to assist them in scheduling and tracking test sites.  While manageable if there aren’t too many sample sites (i.e. 100-150), what if this number is increased to over 500? Over 1000? Tracking through traditional means, like Excel, might no longer be feasible. 

To help, companies are turning to online tools like CONTROL[5] by Sample6 to automate the scheduling and tracking of their test sites, as well as automate remediation steps should a positive occur. The program also assists in visualizing the plant floorplan with digital maps and an overlay of the test points.  Finally, it may help reduce the amount of administrative time spent on the program, allowing the food safety and quality departments more time to analyze the results and improve the process.


[1] (Food & Drug Administration (FDA), 2017)
[2] (Safe Quality Food (SQF), 2014)
[3] (British Retail Consortium, 2015)
[4] (Ulrich, 1982)
[5] (Sample6 , 2017)