Easygel ®*** Swab Kit
Test Hands, Equipment & Facility Cleanliness
The Simple, Accurate, Inexpensive Way to Verify Proper Sanitation
The National Restaurant Association works closely with area Health Standards Offices and Personnel to insure that the food produced by restaurants is both palatable and safe for consumption. With this in mind, NBC Dateline aired a segment on Sunday, March 13, 2005 which rated the 10 best known “Fast Food” chains (Taco Bell, Subway, Hardee’s, McDonalds, Arby’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Wendy’s, KFC, and Dairy Queen) according to the average number of violations detected by official inspectors, with 1000 reports screened for each chain. Interestingly, one of the most mentioned violations was the lack of proper hand cleanliness, which can lead to serious contamination of the food products.
It is easy to understand how workers in these establishments might fail to comprehend the importance of proper hand washing. Certainly, very few people have a real concept of the microbial world and its importance in general health other than to know that “germs” cause illness. They do not understand that the hand is an ideal means of transferring potentially harmful microbes from the environment to food, where ingestion can lead to violent and often serious illness. Also, since microbes are so small, they are generally invisible in the environment (except in cases of gross contamination and growth such as mold covering a moist wall or dispenser) even if millions of active organisms are present on a fingertip. And the surface of human skin commonly houses populations of potentially disease causing bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Training programs for employees commonly cover basic rules pertaining to general cleanliness of the facility and food (gross visible contamination) as well as storage and holding temperatures. Only rarely is the instructor prepared to speak authoritatively concerning microbial contamination, much less conduct a workshop where the employees test the microbial cleanliness of their hands and the physical environment by doing actual testing.
Micrology Laboratories, Inc has been serving the food and beverage industry for more than two decades by providing temperature independent media trademarked Easygel® . These media are formulated as a liquid which is poured into a pretreated standard petri dish where it solidifies and is virtually indistinguishable from a standard prepoured petri dish.
Micrology Laboratories Inc has utilized the Easygel® technology in designing a simple to use kit to teach restaurant workers the importance of handwashing and general cleanliness. The Easygel® Swab Kit demonstrates the numbers of microbes on hands, work tables or equipment both before and after washing or cleaning, and is a dramatic and attention getting way to ensure workers’ awareness of the importance of cleanliness. Each Easygel ® Swab Kit will do 15 “before and after” tests and no additional equipment or materials are needed. Complete step by step instructions are included.
Periodic checking of workers’ hands and the work area will ensure cleanliness and be a great deterrent to problems from poor sanitation practices. This low cost preventive maintenance program will pay for itself many times over. (No other method or media such as Rodac, Dip Paddle, Contact Plate or Film can match the accuracy, ease or cost of the Easygel ® method.)
Each Easygel® Swab Kit consists of the following materials:
- 30 bottles of Easygel® liquid test medium
- 30 Easygel® pretreated petri dishes
- 30 individually packed sterile swabs
- Printed step by step instruction and interpretation guide
*** Easygel ® is the current trademark for the pectin gel method sold by Micrology Laboratories Inc.
- On a clean table top, arrange the following:
- 2 bottles of Easygel® liquid test medium
- 2 Easygel® pretreated petri dishes
- 2 individually packed sterile swabs
Use a magic marker to label the bottom of the petri dishes. Write the date, time and test subject’s name on each dish, and write “before” on one dish and “after” on the other dish.
- Remove one of the swabs from its protective sleeve (being careful not to touch the cotton end to anything), open one bottle of the Easygel® liquid test medium and moisten the swab by sticking it into the liquid medium. Wring out excess medium by pressing and turning the swab against the bottle wall as you remove it from the bottle.
- Now rub the swab over one of the test subject’s fingertips (or swab a measured area, like one square inch, of a work area to be tested, or swab a drink dispenser nozzle or piece of equipment).
- Insert the swab (now holding the test material from finger or work area) back into the bottle of Easygel® liquid test medium and twirl it repeatedly against the inside of the bottle to break loose any test materials (bacteria or spores) into the liquid medium.
- Remove the swab from the bottle (squeezing out excess liquid medium on the inside of the bottle as you remove it).
- Pour the contents of the bottle of Easygel® liquid test medium containing the test material into the bottom of the petri dish marked “before”(lift the lid and pour the contents into the bottom of the dish), replace the lid and swirl gently so that the liquid covers the bottom of the petri dish completely.At this point, have the test subject wash her/his hands thoroughly with soap and water, dry with clean paper towels, and repeat the procedure, beginning with #1 above. This is the “after” and will allow you to determine the effects of washing. (You may clean and dry the swabbed work area, nozzle or equipment and test it as the “after”.)
- Allow the petri dish to stand undisturbed on the level work table until the medium is solid (one hour should be more than sufficient).
- Then put the petri dish in a warm, dark, undisturbed place and allow to incubate. A temperature of 80-90 F is ideal. Check the plate at 24 and 48 hours and count the number of pink-red colonies growing in/on the medium.
- Dispose of the used petri dishes containing the live microbe colonies by lifting the lid and pouring sufficient household bleach (5% sodium hypochlorite, “Clorox”) into the petri dish to cover the entire bottom area. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, pour off the bleach and discard the petri in the trash.
INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS
The medium used in this kit contains a tetrazolium salt which causes colonies growing in the medium to appear as pink/red dots. Therefore, you should count every pink/red dot that appears. Count by looking through the bottom of the plate and use a fine point magic marker to make a dot on the plate over each colony as you count it to avoid over-counting when large numbers of colonies are present.
If fingers or the test area are heavily contaminated, the “test” dish may have hundreds of colonies (in fact, it may have so much contamination that the medium looks a light pink and you cannot even see individual colonies). If the fingers or test area are quite clean, the medium should stay clear (not pink) and you will see a scattered small number of pink/red colonies throughout the medium.
This swab-pour plate method is much superior to the commonly used procedure of using prepoured agar petri dishes and rubbing the swab over the hard surface or touching the finger to the surface. That technique does not provide for good transfer of the organisms present, and it also results in poor separation of the organisms so that instead of individual colonies growing from individual organisms, you tend to get streaks or smears which are uncountable.