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ATP vs. APC, Yeast and Mold testing


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#1 KDuf

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:07 PM

Hey,

I'm part of a mid-sized food package manufacturing plant, and we're beginning our SQF certification process. We have heard from a local company similar to us that they test for APC (aerobic plate count, aka total plate count), Yeast and Mold through an outside laboratory. We want to perform this test as a way to test our environmental and surface cleanliness pre- and post-cleaning. We have performed 2 tests to date, but we want to examine additional options.

In my research, I've discovered ATP testing as a potentially viable option.

Do any of you have information regarding ATP testing?

Specifically, Have any of you implemented ATP testing in your facilities? If so, did you ever have experience using APC-like testing? Why did you switch? Which company's products do you use?

Thank you in advance for your advice. In general, ATP testing appears to me to be cheaper, more reliable, faster, more comprehensive. To me, the only disadvantage is that there isn't a breakdown of the type of organisms present, but I don't believe this specificity is necessary in SQF.

Keith


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#2 KTD

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 03:43 AM

Dear KDuf -

I am not familiar with SQF, but I assume that the requirement is regarding sanitary conditions. Realize that ATP is a general test that will register any ATP present on a surface, not just from microorganisms. ATP has the gain of nearly instant feedback, versus the typical 2 days for micro testing. ATP is a measure of overall cleanliness, whereas ATP measures microbial load.
I used ATP several years ago, and think both ATP & APC have a place in an overall sanitation verification program. I have attached (I think) 3 articles on ATP equipment and items for consideration. If they did not come through, let me know and I will forward to you.
I'm not sure who the moderator for this section is, but he/she may be able to point to other threads on this subject.

Attached File  Hygiene Meter Study.pdf   2.1MB   163 downloads
Attached File  ATP equipment comparison.pdf   23.31KB   131 downloads
Attached File  ATP Factors to Consider.pdf   35.84KB   137 downloads


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#3 KDuf

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 12:28 PM

I used ATP several years ago, and think both ATP & APC have a place in an overall sanitation verification program. I have attached (I think) 3 articles on ATP equipment and items for consideration. If they did not come through, let me know and I will forward to you.



Thanks KTD,

I couldn't get at the second 2 files, so I'll have to PM you or something, but which device and swab did you use? I appreciate the information you posted. Now, I am really interested in people's stories, what product/s they use, how they use it.

From some of my research, my understanding is that ATP is good for verification and APC better for validation. Any comments on that could be helpful.

Thanks again,

KDuf
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#4 Charles.C

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 04:09 PM

Dear KDuf,

I guess the possible benefit of ATP will probably depend on what you wish to use it for (general sanitation only or [prob.not?] allergen factors also) . This will presumably depend on which paragraph(s) in the SQF standard you are currently considering.?

Not a user of SQF myself but one comment from a user is here –

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__54562

You may also find this thread discussing the possible applications, pros and cons of ATP and other detection systems of some interest although it is not primarily directed to the SQF standard.

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__56490

ATP is good for verification and APC better for validation


Sorry but I hv no idea what this means. Perhaps you could clarify a little.

There are several threads on ATP here (although mainly for food processing) and i would hv suggested you try a quick search however unfortunately the search engine requires >=4 lettered words. Sorry.

here are 3 i found on this forum via google -

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__33365
http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__34898
and Attached File  atp, apc cleanliness.pdf   407.32KB   99 downloads
( http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__23301
The last 2 files attached by KTD appear to be corrupted to me also.

Rgds / Charles.C

PS there are a few posts here on control requirements/specs for specific packaging material "cleanliness" but from memory they mostly use specific microbiological limits as criteria which would not be available from an ATP technique without some form of calibration (eg ATP vs APC). From memory direct micro.testing was the usual method.
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Charles.C


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#5 KDuf

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 05:29 PM

Quote KDuf (me)

"ATP is good for verification and APC better for validation"

Sorry but I hv no idea what this means. Perhaps you could clarify a little.

There are several threads on ATP here (although mainly for food processing) and i would hv suggested you try a quick search however unfortunately the search engine requires >=4 lettered words. Sorry.

here are 2 i found via google -

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__33365
http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__34898


Many thanks Charles,

Re. the ATP search, I was wondering about that (I tried searching the forums here). I now know to go to google :smarty:.

As far as validation vs. verification (and I know it's been discussed SEVERAL times), I spoke with a 3M representative and he explicitely stated that the ATP test was best used to verify that a cleaning process is being performed according to the established procedure. The validation step (APC, yeast and mold testing) is intended to validate that the above cleaning process, performed correctly, is effective and removing bacteria, yeast and mold that can affect packaging.

Your additional links are very helpful, though I am still interested in hearing what specific products some of the users of this forum use.


Best regards,

KDuf

Edited by KDuf, 16 November 2012 - 02:18 PM.

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#6 KDuf

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 05:36 PM

As far as validation vs. verification (and I know it's been discussed SEVERAL times), I spoke with a 3M representative and he explicitely stated that the ATP test was best used to VERIFY that a cleaning process is being performed according to the established procedure. The VALIDATION step (APC, yeast and mold testing) is intended to VALIDATE that the above cleaning process, performed correctly, is effective and removing bacteria, yeast and mold that can affect packaging.



My Mistake!!! :helpplease:

I still cannot edit my posts (maybe you could PM me instructions Charles), but I mistook validation and verification above. Ironic...


Update/edit: I made the correct changes above. All of a sudden, my "edit" button just appeared... I know I haven't been missing it because... well... it's kind of hard to miss. Who knows what happened!?!

Edited by KDuf, 16 November 2012 - 02:21 PM.

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#7 Charles.C

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 07:38 PM

Dear KDuf,

Since you are involved with production of food packaging, I presume the relevant section in SQF7 is 13.2.11. As far as I can see, the word validation does not occur, only verification (the SQF defs of Va/Ve are rather mysterious as well-discussed here already.).

There does not seem to be a guidance document for sqf7 released yet?. The sqf2000 guidance for packaging manufacturers looks rather different.

Cleaning and sanitation validation/verification are detailed in a recent sqf supplement (for food processors I guess) with particular ref. to allergen testing.
Attached File  Allergen-Guidance-Document.pdf   91.73KB   54 downloads
This is purely speculative as I don’t use sqf but if refer to pg3-4 in attachment, for your usage, maybe one can substitute yeast,mold, etc for the “allergen”, as per 3M’s comment. I think the sqf logic is that "validation" demands a specific target which is not unreasonable but debatable for something like "cleaning" .The rest of the text then does bear some resemblance to Codex terminologies and the use of ATP for verification would also require calibration (eg bottom pg4) as I mentioned earlier.

Need some actual sqf user input. ;)

Re-editing query, this should be available directly from the “edit” button under the post.

Rgds / Charles.


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#8 KDuf

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 07:55 PM

Dear Kduf,

Since you are involved with production of food packaging, I presume the relevant section in SQF7 is 13.2.11. As far as I can see, the word validation does not occur, only verification (the SQF defs of Va/Ve are rather mysterious as well-discussed here already.).

There does not seem to be a guidance document for sqf7 released yet?. The sqf2000 guidance for packaging manufacturers looks rather different.

Cleaning and sanitation validation/verification are detailed in a recent sqf supplement (for food processors I guess) with particular ref. to allergen testing.
Attached File  Allergen-Guidance-Document.pdf   91.73KB   54 downloads
This is purely speculative as I don’t use sqf but if refer to pg3-4 in attachment, for your usage, maybe one can substitute yeast,mold, etc for the “allergen”, as per 3M’s comment. I think the sqf logic is that "validation" demands a specific target which is not unreasonable but debatable for something like "cleaning" .The rest of the text then does bear some resemblance to Codex terminologies and the use of ATP for verification would also require calibration (eg bottom pg4) as I mentioned earlier.

Need some actual sqf user input. ;)

Re-editing query, this should be available directly from the “edit” button under the post.

Rgds / Charles.



According to my research, SQF is split into a number of modules, depending on your inidivual facilities. That being said, Module 2 (what your attachment refers to), applies to EVERY SQF-seeking company. So, for example, we must do everything within Module 2 and 13 as a package manufacturer.

Specifically, Module 2.5 entitled "SQF System Verification" refers to both verification and validation.

As far as re-editing, I still don't see it :unsure: . I just see "Report" and "Reply" and "MultiQuote". Am I even looking in the right spot?


Thanks again,

KDuf
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#9 Charles.C

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 08:14 PM

According to my research, SQF is split into a number of modules, depending on your inidivual facilities. That being said, Module 2 (what your attachment refers to), applies to EVERY SQF-seeking company. So, for example, we must do everything within Module 2 and 13 as a package manufacturer.

Specifically, Module 2.5 entitled "SQF System Verification" refers to both verification and validation.

As far as re-editing, I still don't see it :unsure: . I just see "Report" and "Reply" and "MultiQuote". Am I even looking in the right spot?


Thanks again,

KDuf


Dear KDuf,

You're right. I missed the index which lists the intended usages. Bad luck. :smile:

the edit should show something like this -
Attached File  edit.png   3.8KB   8 downloads
maybe it's browser related but seems unlikely, i'm using ffox

Rgds / Charles.C
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#10 mgourley

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 09:01 PM

I have used ATP in the past and I can honestly say there is no value add there. As a previous poster pointed out, any ATP on the surface to be tested will show up.

So, you have to do quite a bit of data collection to determine what "acceptably clean" is. For example, you would swab an area that has just been cleaned and sanitized. This would be your low baseline number. You would then swab the same area before it is cleaned, this would probably be your high baseline number. You could then determine some point in between those numbers as your acceptable high number.

Since you are doing packaging, wouldn't a simple visual inspection tell you if the equipment is "clean"?

I'm not trying to discourage the use of ATP testing, it's just been my experience that the ongoing cost really does not add any value to determining if something is "clean" or not.

That being said, the System Sure product line from Hygenia is compact and simple to use.

Product info here

Marshall


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#11 KTD

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Posted 15 November 2012 - 09:08 PM

Apolgies - looks like I goofed on my attachments. The ATP equipment & Hygiene meter comparison (corrupted) were duplicate articles.

Here is a food trade magazine article from 2010 and a readable copy of the factors to consider. Please note that I am not affilliated with Scigiene, they just had some good info when I was looking...

Attached File  ATP Factors to Consider.pdf   1.83MB   48 downloads
Attached File  ATP Biolum Moves Mainstream - FQ Jun'10.pdf   267.22KB   38 downloads

(KDuf, you already have these...)


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#12 Tony-C

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:39 AM

I have used ATP in the past and I can honestly say there is no value add there. As a previous poster pointed out, any ATP on the surface to be tested will show up.

Since you are doing packaging, wouldn't a simple visual inspection tell you if the equipment is "clean"?

I'm not trying to discourage the use of ATP testing, it's just been my experience that the ongoing cost really does not add any value to determining if something is "clean" or not.

Marshall


I have to say my experience is completely the opposite and I have found significant value in using ATP swabs particularly on surfaces that are manually cleaned.
:boomerang:

Having said that I agree that it is not something I would regard as being as useful in food packaging manufacturing!

Regards,

Tony

Edited by Tony-C, 16 November 2012 - 09:41 AM.

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#13 KDuf

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 02:17 PM

I have to say my experience is completely the opposite and I have found significant value in using ATP swabs particularly on surfaces that are manually cleaned.
:boomerang:

Having said that I agree that it is not something I would regard as being as useful in food packaging manufacturing!

Regards,

Tony


Tony and Marshall,

Why do you say it is not something that can be useful in package manufacturing?

From a safety standpoint (for the customer), everything in food packaging pretty much seems to me to be a lesser risk than direct food handlers. That being said, why would SQF and presumably other certification bodies include Package Manufacturing in their SQF certification?

My general thought was that ATP would help us clean better/more efficiently as a quick test once a month or so and during training. Additional tests would be used once a year or so. Do you propose that microbiologica testing is completely unnecessary in food package manufacturing? We have to satisfy the SQF code presented earlier in this topic by Charles C...

Thanks for your thoughts,

KDuf

Edited by KDuf, 16 November 2012 - 02:40 PM.

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#14 Charles.C

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:44 AM

Dear KDuf,

At the risk of boring you, I can add a few more comments which may be of interest. Unfortunately my practical experience with ATP is nil since several years ago I was impressed with the apparent ease and speed of the unit offered but somewhat stunned at the costs involved compared to in-house laboratory plate count measurements, etc. which were already running. End of story. :smile:

I just did some googling for use of ATP systems in food contact packaging operations. Strangely, I could find only one result (see below) but packaging is not my area of expertise so maybe I missed them somehow. I don’t know if you hv already looked around yourself. It seems to me that promotional publications on ATP systems in the food process area are also perhaps a bit misleading regarding level of uptake - I noticed a few amazingly high % claims here and there however I also recently posted a quite detailed review comparing various sanitation evaluation methods from around 2006 and this seemed to imply visual detection was still the overwhelming norm. Maybe a revolution has occurred since then of course, possibly accelerated by the esteemed BRC, SQF et al. :whistle:

If you look around the literature and the documents posted on this forum, it appears to me that some conclusions have been reached regarding ATP systems, eg -
(a) in many (most?) cases it is not suitable for making microbial inferences in food process applications. Of course if the latter is not of interest to you, that doesn’t matter.
(b) the technique has some audit support for assessing sanitation. For example it is included in the AIB packaging standard (pg 64) ( Attached File  AIB 2012 Food contact packaging standard.pdf   7.79MB   30 downloads). And it’s use / associated requirements are detailed in this food process HACCP standard (pg 84) – Attached File  Primus (Food) Haccp Standard 2011.pdf   761.44KB   23 downloads.
(It would obviously be of interest to know about SQF’s [packaging] viewpoint [if any].) (Or for food processing for that matter - i deduce from existing comments that no mandatory requirement exists)
© The technique may have operational difficulties relating to, for example, quantitation of "cleanliness" [internally and as compared to sensitivity of a microbiological assessment], compatibility between different manufacturers/locations, interferences. Such problems can occur for all estimation methods of course hence the desire for standardised methods. I'm not aware whether any particular ATP systems are AOAC approved?.
(d) Opinions on the ease of implementation appear variable as per the posters in this thread and elsewhere. Maybe the best option on this (and[c]) is to try it out for yourself.
(e) I found this post quite interesting from a, presumably, well-informed source -
http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__33440

BTW, I don’t know if you are aware that (hygienic) microbiological specifications exist for food contact packaging itself, analogous to the contents. Such specs. would appear to necessitate some specific micro.data being acquired alongside sanitation evaluations.

Rgds / Charles.C


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#15 Tony-C

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:23 AM

Tony and Marshall,

Why do you say it is not something that can be useful in package manufacturing?

From a safety standpoint (for the customer), everything in food packaging pretty much seems to me to be a lesser risk than direct food handlers. That being said, why would SQF and presumably other certification bodies include Package Manufacturing in their SQF certification?

My general thought was that ATP would help us clean better/more efficiently as a quick test once a month or so and during training. Additional tests would be used once a year or so. Do you propose that microbiologica testing is completely unnecessary in food package manufacturing? We have to satisfy the SQF code presented earlier in this topic by Charles C...

Thanks for your thoughts,

KDuf


Hi KDuf,

The nature of the test is that it measures ATP levels - ATP is present in food debris and bacteria.

With packaging you will have no food debris and hence from the levels detected are more difficult to determine what is acceptable.

Micro testing is still relevant. My major issues with packaging before have related to Yeasts & Moulds.

Be interesting to know what type of packaging you are manufacturing & what type of equipment you want to monitor the cleanliness of.

Kind regards,

Tony

Edited by Tony-C, 18 November 2012 - 08:24 AM.

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#16 KDuf

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 07:38 PM

Be interesting to know what type of packaging you are manufacturing & what type of equipment you want to monitor the cleanliness of.

Kind regards,

Tony


We make thermoformed plastic trays to house fruits, veggies, yogurt, granola, that kind of thing.

We also make paperboard boxes or sleeves to be used in a deli or to surround a roasted chicken or something of that sort. (start with rolls of paperboard and go all the way to folding/gluing).

We are basically monitoring any product-contact surface (e.g. the belts that guide sheets of paperboard or the impression cylinder on a printing press).

I guess we are most concerned with the bacteria/yeasts/molds like you say, but ATP testing should detect that kind of thing we expect, in addition to full microbio testing.

I think we will use some combination of the two. ATP for instant feedback and diagnostic help. Plates for SQF validation of our cleaning.

I really appreciate all the thoughts I've received.

All the best,

KDuf
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#17 Charles.C

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:34 PM

Dear KDuf,

As per Tony's comments, assuming that the ATP response for packaging is primarily due to microbial contamination, this may further impact on the usage ability of the technique due to, AFAIK, the relatively low output from micro-organisms as compared to food residues. This aspect is probably discussed in some of previous posted attachments, eg the necessary level of microbial contamination to yield a significant ATP response as compared to sensitivity by swab methods.
(Another interesting question to direct towards the ATP equipment supplier perhaps ? The actual field situation will no doubt be rapidly obvious when testing the unit on a typical work surface in use).

There are a few other threads on the forum of interest regarding regarding microbial levels on packaging, eg -

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__51211

http://www.ifsqn.com...dpost__p__20492

Rgds / Charles.C


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#18 Tony-C

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 05:14 AM

I guess we are most concerned with the bacteria/yeasts/molds like you say, but ATP testing should detect that kind of thing we expect, in addition to full microbio testing.

I think we will use some combination of the two. ATP for instant feedback and diagnostic help. Plates for SQF validation of our cleaning.

I really appreciate all the thoughts I've received.

All the best,

KDuf


It will detect gross micro contamination. Your validation should tell you if it is sufficient.

Kind regards,

Tony
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