Food, Water & Environmental Sampling (FWE Health Services)

Food, Water & Environmental Sampling (FWE Health)

SEAM works in collaboration with Christian Garland of FWE Health to provide comprehensive scientific consulting services, in Food, Water and Environment.

Advantages of Regular Product Testing

For more than 20 years in Tasmania, FWE Health has been undertaking various types of testing on a wide range of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook vegetable, fruit, meat and fish products, and on ready-to-drink beverages.  We also test other samples from manufacturing environments including swabs of food contact surfaces and process water, and various forms of drinking water.  Most tests are microbiological, but some chemical analytical work (eg pesticides, metals) is also undertaken.

Many foods are now regarded as high risk beacuse some consumers will use them as a ready-to-eat product (ie the foods may be eaten without cooking).  Consequently it is important for public health reasons, your company's due diligence and customer expectations, that the product is tested to ensure it will last its predicted shelf life and will be safe to consume during that time.  Certain raw foods (meat and vegetable) which are going to be cooked are also regarded as high risk beacuse they may contain food-poisoning toxins which are produced by bacteria but which may not be deactivated by cooking temperatures.  All ready-to-drink water supplies and bottled water products and many beverages are regarded as high risk.

Regular Product Testing

Many of our major producers and service industries now undertake testing programs on a regular basis.  There are many advantages to this approach:

  • It demonstrates their products are safe and last at least the recommended shelf life.
  • It verifies their HACCP system is being undertaken and is working properly.
  • If a high count of SPC, coliforms, yeasts or moulds is found in a product, this often causes concern about whether the product will last its full expected shelf life.  Usually there is also concern that potential disease-causing organisms may be part of the high count, so it is critical to be able to demonstrate that pathogens have been specifically tested for but have not been detected.
  • A history of microbiological (and chemical) testing is built up over months (and years) and it is very useful to show to product safety auditors.

In the possible instance where we detect contamination of a product with a low level of an undesirable organism (or chemical), the manufacturer can show the auditor what corrective action they susequently took to eliminate it.

  • The history of testing also allows the manufacturer to counter unreasonable claims by customers or Health Departments that their product left the processing factory or sales outlet in a contaminated state.

If a spoilage or health incident linked to one of your products occurs, the manufacturer or service industry can direct possible blame for it onto other parties involved in the distribution chain who are more likely to have caused it.

  • The history of testing also allows the manufacturer or service industry to counter unreasonable claims by customers or Health Departments about potentially spurious results other laboratories have obtained on their product, such as those following suspect spoilage or health incidents.

Types of Microorganisms Tested

There are two main categories of microorganisms that we test for in foods, beverages and drinking water:

  • Organisms which can cause spoilage and shorten shelf life eg SPC (total aerobic heterotrophic bacteria), yeasts & moulds and coliforms
  • Organisms which can cause food poisoning eg E.coli, CP Staphylococci, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium species, Listeria species. including L.monocytogenes, Salmonellae and Campylobacter.

Shelf life

Where appropriate, we suggest your products should be tested for counts of spoilage organisms (SPC, coliforms, yeasts and moulds) at both the start and end of shelf life.


If product is stored at room temperature, we suggest that all the potential disease-causing organisms mentioned above (E.coli, CP Staphylococci, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium, Listeria including L.monocytogenes, Salmonellae and Campylobacter) should be tested for at start and also at end of shelf life.  In some cases it may not be economic to undertake all tests at one time on a product; instead, testing can be undertaken over a 12-month period.

If product is stored at 4 degrees C, we suggest all organisms should be tested at start of shelf life, but a shorter list of organisms (E.coli, Bacillus cereus, Listeria including L.monocytogenes) at the end of shelf life.

Sampling Plan

With advice from your staff, we can help choose appropriate samples for testing regularly (eg monthly) and also a regular day(s) in the month to submit them to the laboratory.  We usually require the product to be in its normal, unopened packaging.  However if the package of product is large, it is more economic to aseptically collect a small sample.

Our services include provision of sterile swabs and sample jars, and training your staff in aseptic sampling techniques.  We offer to pick up the samples in Hobart free of charge, on an arranged date.

Fast Advice about Potentially Adverse Results and Follow Up

Occasionally a potentially adverse result about product shelf life or safety is obtained during testing, before all the results have been completed.  In this instance we quickly advise our client by phone, which prompts them to take early action to investigate the problem.  Because we now test such a wide range of foods, beverages and drinking waters in Tasmania, we can often suggest likely sources of the organism and how to minimise the opportunities for it to contaminate or grow in the product.

As a matter of routine when we issue a report to the client, we comment on whether the results meet shelf life and safety guidelines and are satisfactory, marginal or unsatisfactory.  If a result is marginal or unsatisfactory, we provide recommendations about what to do next, so that you can decide on what corrective or investigative action to take.

For more information, please contact us.