Next Generation in Environmental Surface Sampling

Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) is an essential component for microbial control and is used in facilities that produce ready-to-eat foods that assesses how effectively the plant is being cleaned. This typically means swabbing various surfaces (e.g. cutting blades, tables, conveyers) for pathogens and sending those samples out to a lab for analysis. The goal is to determine whether any pathogens (e.g. E. coli, listeria monocytogenes, salmonella) are living in facility and to respond accordingly if a positive result is found. It’s important to recognize that a clean test result doesn’t confirm that your food is safe, rather it verifies that your cleaning processes are effective.


Sampling sponge: Polyurethane vs cellulose sponge

Cellulose sponges have been used for over 40 years to sample a diverse range of surfaces in the food production environment from beef, pork and poultry carcasses to production floors, ceilings, drains, and equipment. New polyurethane (PUR) sponges offer several distinct advantages over traditional cellulose sponges as well as wound, fiber-tipped swabs including less susceptible to flaking and tearing, allowing for vigorous scrubbing on irregular surfaces to disrupt biofilm.

Polyurethane sponge is a polymer composed of organic units joined by carbamate (urethane) links. The synthetic manufacturing process of the polyurethane yields a more consistent biocide-free material without any components that may interfere with downstream test methods.

A groundbreaking study by Charles P. Gerba, Ph.D., a renowned professor of Microbiology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Arizona, reveals that using a kitchen sponge made of polyurethane foam significantly reduces the spread of E. coli, decreasing the risk of infection by up to 90 percent, when compared to a traditional cellulose sponge.

Studies show that cells more readily release from polyurethane sponge material than from cellulose. The inability to release microorganisms after sample collection can have adverse effects on the accuracy of downstream test results causing microbial populations to be underestimated and potentially giving a false sense of cleaning effectiveness.  

Download – White Paper on Cellulose and Polyurethane Sponges for Surface Sampling


Collection broth

Collection broths play a critical role in the success of a surface sampling program. To avoid false negative results, a collection broth needs to have (i) the capacity to neutralize any sanitizer that may be present on a surface to be sampled and (ii) the ability to maintain the viability of all organisms collected by the sampling device until the sample is processed by the laboratory.

HiCap™ (High Capacity) Neutralizing Broth is the first collection broth developed specifically for use in the food and beverage industry as an alternative to the traditional collection broths (Neutralizing Buffer, D/E Neutralizing Broth, and Letheen Broth), each of which suffers from some deficiency.

Study conducted by N. Robert Ward and Roman Tchelak, shows that HiCap™ neutralizing broth can maintain the viability of Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium, and Listeria monocytogenes over a 48 hour period at refrigerated temperatures.


In addition to the critical requirements that a collection broth effectively neutralize residual sanitizer and maintain the viability of the collected microorganisms, other considerations may come into play when selecting a collection broth. These include compatibility with laboratory procedures, the potential presence of allergenic components or animal derived materials in the collection broth, acceptability of the collection broth in contact with food, temperature storage requirements, and compatibility with Kosher and Halal practices.

Download - White Paper on Collection Broths for Environmental Monitoring Programs

Download - Performance Evaluation of HiCapTM Neutralizing Broth; Phase 2. Inter-Laboratory Study


Whirl-Pak is the world’s leading producer of unique polyurethane sponge bags pre-hydrated with HiCap™ Neutralizing Broth which provide surface sampling solutions superior to standard collection methods. Whirl-Pak® sampling products are ideal for all industries including food & beverage, dairy, water, medical, veterinary, environmental, soil, and industrial markets as well as forensic science, genetics, biomedical, and pharmaceutical sampling.

FC-BIOS is the sole distributor of Whirl-Pak product in Malaysia, with a dedicated team of sales and technical support. We are more than happy to tell more about our products. Contact us now!

View product brochure – Whirl-Pak Hydrated PolySpongeTM