What food samples are taken for microbiological surveillance?
The microbiological examination of food is carried out by the Food Examiner at the NPHW Laboratory, Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen.
Each year the Authority draft a Microbiological Food sampling Programme. The contents of the Programme is dependent on any local sampling priorities identified but is primarily focussed on sampling foods made by local food manufacturers approved under European Legislation (ie Regulation EC (No) 853/2004) which lays down specific requirements for businesses who manufacture foods containing products of animal origin. This includes dairy premises and premises making dairy products such as cheese, and premises manufacturing meat or fishery products. These types of establishment may make cooked hams or meat pies, or they may process crabs/ lobsters or smoke fish etc.
In addition when setting the microbiological food sampling programme, the Authority has regard to surveys organized by the Welsh Food Microbiological Forum (WFMF). This Forum constitutes members from each of the Local Authorities in Wales and decides co-ordinated targetted surveys for Local Authorities, based on issues where there has either been a known or perceived hazard associated with different food types. These surveys are then collated on an All Wales basis and reports are compiled to determine whether the targetted survey has identified any issues.
Bacteriological samples are interpreted in accordance with EC Regulation 2073/2005 on the Microbiological Criteria for Foodstuffs or Health Protection Agency Guidelines for ready to eat foods as appropriate. Unsatisfactory/unacceptable samples will be followed up by investigation of possible reasons for failure, often including a further visit to the premises and repeated sampling. Generally, around 10% of samples are found to be unsatisfactory/unacceptable, and these principally relate to high total aerobic colony counts rather than to the presence of pathogens.