Best Sample - Best Results: How to use Environmental Results

Posted by Nicholas Hesse on Jun 24, 2020 10:51:00 AM
Nicholas Hesse

As a customer, what do you do with your environmental results? Many of you have your own processes and quality procedures but are you using your results to effectively ensure your sanitation is working?

Try this multiple choice question. What DO you do with your environmental results?

  1. Check your Certificate of Analysis (CoA) and tuck it away?

    OR
  2. Review your CoA and track/trend your results for each site?

The best answer in this scenario is B. Tracking and trending your results is the best way to ensure that you understand your facility. Doing this can effectively help understand how time frames change the acceptable levels, how to anticipate when a pathogen may rear their nasty head, and how to measure effectiveness of sanitary design and personnel practices.

Let’s dig deeper into this to better understand the why!

When you receive your CoA from the lab,  those results should not be glanced over and forgotten until an auditor comes by. Taking these numbers/values and placing them in a spreadsheet, document, or EMS (Environmental Monitoring Software) helps to track what is happening with each site in your plant over time.

Below is an example of APC results from an imaginary facility. These are not representative, but we can use them as a guide for how to use the results!

APC Results

 

1/1/20

1/15/20

1/29/20

2/12/20

2/26/20

3/11/20

3/25/20

4/8/20

4/22/20

5/6/20

5/20/20

6/3/20

6/17/20

Site A

10

10

10

10

100

10

100

10

10

10

10

10

10

Site B

220

200

250

200

200

500

1000

220

220

220

270

260

200

Site C

500

1500

500

500

1000

500

2000

100000

100000

500

400

500

500

Site D

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

1000

Site E

20000

20000

22000

20000

15000

15000

0

20000

15000

17000

20000

20000

15000

 

There is a LOT of data here… Let's put them into graphs for a better visual.

                   

Much easier to look at! Now you can look at these graphs and go “Hmm, What seems off? What happened on that day? When were the samples taken?" These are questions you should ask when you see your results.

Let’s use Site A as a first example. Based on the counts, typically you see results at about 10 CFU. Around the end of February and middle of March there were 2 spikes at 100 CFU. Based on your specifications, these are still within an acceptable level – but you should be looking at these results and question "Why? Why are these 100 CFU?"

After some investigation you find that a different individual was sampling these sites and using the sampling device incorrectly. Correcting this as early as possible helps prevent future false positives and potential recalls.

Now let’s look at Site E. Based on the counts, this could be a Zone 4 sample (something like a floor in the break room, or maybe a hallway doorknob). Based on historical testing, the counts trend higher. One day a count was 0. Why? Was this an error?

After investigating, you found that the employee who was sampling the site took it directly after sanitizing. This effectively killed all organisms on the sponges during transport and gave an invalid result. Now it has become a perfect teaching and training opportunity for your team to avoid any future sampling errors.

I won’t go through the rest of the sites, but each has its own example of how tracking and trending your results is extremely important. Taking your results and putting them to use helps save time, money, and resources by giving foresight to your quality procedures.

Now, you can even take it a step further and map your results on a blueprint of your plant or by using an EMS. This step can help provide a that visual investigation to track and trend traffic patterns, vector possibilities, and stop potential cross-contamination. I won’t get too deep into that but know that it's a great next step!

If you have any questions on how to best use your results, don’t hesitate to give us a call and talk with our technical team. We provide consultations and even provide an Environmental Monitoring and Sanitation Cherney College course.

If you are interested in talking with our team about Environmental Monitoring Software, please feel free to give us a call as well. We are happy to provide more info and some great suggestions!

Topics: Cherney College, Visual Management, Data Trending, Data Analysis, Environmental Monitoring, Sampling Devices, Environmental Sampling, Mentoring, Technical Services, Environmental Monitoring Software