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Environmental swabbing

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Environmental swabbing can inform food business owners and food regulators about how clean a food processing area is.

Environmental swabbing involves the microbiological testing of food preparation surfaces, equipment and utensils using various swab techniques to find out if pathogens are present.

It is used:

  1. to verify whether a food businesses’ cleaning and sanitation programs are effective (known as cleaning verification)
  2. in a ‘seek and destroy’ mission when a food business is concerned that a foodborne illness pathogen is present in the food processing area.


The Food Authority’s report Environmental swabbing – A guide to method selection and consistent techniques targets food business owners who are new to environmental swabbing.

By following this guide, a food premises will not only be visually clean, ie free of food particles and residue, but also microbiologically clean.

Environmental swabbing - A guide to method selection and consistent technique April 2013 (pdf 228KB)

Table of contents
Issues common to most methods
Cloths and sponges
Contact plates and dipslides
ATP methods
Interpretation of indicative counts

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