Pathogen Environmental Monitoring Program (PEM)
A review of the history of the microbiological hazards associated with tree nuts and nut products, including almonds, shows that Salmonella spp. is one of the primary target pathogens of concern at all stages of production and handling. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach is the most widely accepted food safety management framework around the world and is endorsed by the Almond Board of California for use by almond handlers for the production of safe and wholesome products. HACCP is a systematic science-based approach that identifies, assesses and controls the risk of biological, chemical and physical hazards in the product. The HACCP approach consists of seven principles, each of which must be followed for successful implementation. The first HACCP principle states that the HACCP team should conduct a hazard analysis that assesses the food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur and that must be controlled for the production of safe product. Since history has revealed Salmonella spp. to be one of the reasonably likely food safety hazards to occur within the almond production environment, it is critical that an almond facility’s HACCP plan identifies, assesses, and seeks to control and mitigate that risk.
An effective mechanism for controlling the risk of Salmonella in the almond production environment is the implementation of a Pathogen Environmental Monitoring (PEM) program. As an integral component of an almond facility’s HACCP plan, a well developed PEM program will control and mitigate the risk of Salmonella spp. contamination proactively in both the production and post-production environment. The PEM manual is intended to outline the necessary tools and steps to develop and implement such a program.