Technology in food processing makes it possible to feed billions across the world every day. And with constant advances, the industry is becoming safer and more reliable every day. But between plant budgets and work schedules, it’s hard to find the time to evaluate what technology should be adopted and what needs a second look.

Rapid microbial testing is one of the up-and-coming technologies that allows quality assurance supervisors to perform quick surveillance and look for red flag indicators that a microbial problem could exist. But how do these tests perform and what do they mean for the food processing industry?

What They Provide

Testing in lab.Rapid microbial tests provide an instant read-out and a do-it-yourself checkup. PSSI Corporate Microbiologist Steve Weiland thinks of the kits as screening tools.

“The rapid tests tell you that a group of bacteria is present and can be an indicator that something is unsanitary and needs further investigation to determine the source,” says Weiland.

“They provide a quick check for different groups of bacteria. Results are generally a positive or negative and don’t allow for targeted diagnosis,” he says. “If the test lights up for E. coli, there could be a contamination. It could be in the drain, floor or equipment. Maybe it’s cross-contamination, maybe it’s foot traffic.”

Rapid tests require expertise when using them. To get the most accurate reading, follow all the manufacturer instructions.

Best Practices

Use rapid tests only in intended areas. Managers should use all resources available, including gathering input from a technical representative at the rapid testing company.

The best way to take advantage of this new technology is to use it in conjunction with an effective sanitation program. The rapid tests should be used as indicators and follow-up lab swabs should be taken to verify results and provide the most accurate conclusions.

PSSI technical experts work with plant managers who have questions about using micro-tests and interpreting results. The PSSI technical services team can use rapid test results to help clients reduce risk and make changes to sanitation routines as needed.

If a customer is interested in using rapid micro-testing to supplement its sanitation routine, PSSI’s team will provide any investigative support necessary to go into a deeper cleaning mode.

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