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Campden BRI is enlisting the help of the food manufacturers for research into Covid-19’s impact on factory hygiene, with the aim of improving efficiency.

The study will compare factory swab results from hundreds of different food businesses to identify patterns in microbiological data.

According to the food science institute, participating in the project could save manufacturers significant cost and time as it will reveal which cleaning interventions have been the most successful.

By comparing data generated pre- and post-pandemic from a number of factories, the researchers hope to reveal a particular cleaning method that is effective against a food pathogen such as Listeria monocytogenes.

Another aim of the study is to gauge the different hygiene strategies adopted to prevent the spread of coronavirus. For example, while many food businesses have put barriers in place, Campden BRI said it has yet to be determined whether this has made an impact on a factory’s microflora by making it more difficult to clean certain areas.

“When the pandemic hit the food industry hard last year, feedback from industry groups suggested that food businesses implemented different hygiene strategies to continue to produce safe products while maintaining staff safety,” said Dr Greg Jones, senior microbiologist at Campden BRI.

“This inadvertently set the scene for the single greatest industry-wide experiment into factory hygiene ever conducted. We could draw countless conclusions from this data, but what we’re most excited about identifying is the effectiveness of specific approaches on specific food pathogens.”

Dr Roy Betts, a fellow at Campden BRI, believes the opportunity for research represents the “silver lining” of the challenges experienced by the food industry since the emergence of Covid-19.

“The interventions put in place due to the pandemic provide a golden opportunity to collate data that will allow participants to benchmark themselves against other anonymous participants to get an understanding of whether their factory hygiene is in line with others,” he said.

“Subsequently, this will help them identify areas where their cleaning practices may need evaluating.”

The research will begin in October and initially run for a year. As well as providing their microbiological factory swab data – which will be kept confidential – participating businesses will be required to complete a short survey. Any companies wanting to take part in the research should contact Greg Jones via greg.jones@campdenbri.co.uk.