A Surveillance System To Keep Your Food Safe


Written by: Selective Micro Technologies 

food safetyA cleaning and decontamination program is a necessary and measureable attribute to keep your food safe; however, a thorough surveillance system should also be enacted. In fact, just recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified the glaring gaps which persist regarding the education of public health surveillance. For example, it was discovered that food safety and handling practices that are a threat, typically are not reported during product recalls and foodborne pathogen outbreaks.

Other factors include worker hygiene and attendant health policies and food safety quality management programs. It is important to not only employ regular surface sanitization, but also understand causes attributable to pathogenic outbreaks. Foodborne diseases rapidly impact highly vulnerable groups such as those who are pregnant, infants or young children, elderly, and anyone recently ill. Foodborne pathogen outbreak surveillance is important because identification of a potential cause can assist authorities in isolating or impeding the outbreak from infecting and impacting a larger population.

Surveillance system should include:


A surveillance system should include education regarding the most common types of foodborne pathogen outbreaks (like listeria infections, salmonella and e-coli outbreaks). As well as education regarding which chemicals are practical, highly efficacious,yet also environmentally and user-friendly. Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) are regularly used for disinfection in the food industry because they are cheap and have perceived lasting effectiveness. Quats are actually strong oxidizers, such as pure chlorine dioxide, and are very difficult to rinse out after application. Further, some bacteria, namely pseudomonas, can build resistance towards disinfection with quats. This is in fact the opposite a chemical such as pure chlorine dioxide for disinfection.

Comparing pure chlorine dioxide (ClO2) to quats is measureable against two phenomena: quality and efficacy. The quality and versatility of pure chlorine dioxide enables it to traverse spaces not possible when using quats, and its method of attack (oxidation) is much smarter than that of a quaternary compound. Pure ClO2 simply has a much wider efficacy range and one with which microbes cannot build resistance against. Further, due to microbial resistance against quats, such compounds are not recommended as long term holding solutions for common disinfection.

For more information on chemical use and proper surveillance systems, please see some quick tips below:

1)  Identify flag sites to ensure employees are properly notified and aware of foodborne pathogen dangers and how best to respond if presented with such. For example, the CDC offers a section for tracking and identifying updates: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/dsFoodborneOutbreaks/

2)  Evaluate which chemicals are most effective as well as the safest alternative for food facility disinfection. Pure chlorine dioxide is simply better than chlorine bleach and quaternary ammonium compounds for microbe elimination; it touts a very low use concentration; however, one which is still very comparable against very high use concentrations of other chemicals. Further, pure ClO2 from SMT is OMRI organic certified, FDA approved and EPA registered.

3)  Your surveillance system is your safety belt; the more you practice safe and effective decontamination protocols in addition to improved and ongoing education programs, the more likely you can avoid potential outbreaks, or at least identify and eliminate an outbreak at its source.

4)  The surveillance system should identify which foods are more likely to cause illness, how germs populate, which chemicals are most/least effective as well as corrosive or dangerous. Finally, the surveillance system should identify how infection may be prevented, namely from proper decontamination practice and environmental awareness/education.

5)  Define a response strategy. While practice for prevention is key, missteps do take place and it is recommend to have a plan of action in the event an outbreak does occur.