aseptic vs. septic sampling

According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘aseptic’ is defined as “free from contamination caused by harmful bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms.” Thus, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the opposite is considered a ‘septic’ sample, “infected with microorganisms, especially harmful bacteria.”

The entire food safety movement over the last hundred years has revolved around the idea that food fit for human consumption has the lowest bacteria counts possible. Further, our sanitation standards are so effective at removing gram-negative bacteria that we take it for granted. In the dairy industry, we have complete, unquestioning faith in our pasteurization process and system sanitation procedures. The problem is that bacteria are like small children, and they generally do what they want, when they want, and where they want. Like children, their presence should never be ignored.

Our general manufacturing protocols, sanitation standard operating procedures and the hygienic design of equipment all revolve around the idea of maintaining the lowest number of total bacteria in our food, and verification through sampling, sometimes by using the septic method of a petcock valve. Even worse, septic sampling may involve using a dipper or spoon. In some cases, only finished goods are sampled, which allows a reaction to issues, instead of proactively controlling possible variables.

It boggles the mind.

Why is it not standard practice to sample along the entire production line and take all samples aseptically? It seems so fundamental.

If you are making business decisions or verifying your hard work, why not use a sampling method that has a minimal chance of being contaminated? How can you make a single business decision if you are not sure of the result from a sample?

In this new COVID-19 world, we are all seeing the value of sampling and how global decisions can not be made without good reliable data. The same is true on a microbiological level at a food processing plant or producers’ farms.

If you are not sampling, you are in trouble.

If you are using a sampling method that is errored, you are wasting your time.