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What is the difference between an ATP swab and an Allergen Swab?

ATP Swabs

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#1 Elleflores619


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Posted 08 March 2017 - 07:41 PM

Hi all I was just wondering what the difference was between an ATP swab and an Allergen Swab ?  I was told that I did not have to have an allergen swab with a heat block but I could use only the ATP swab for our Allergen Program.  Is this true any info will help thank you kindly.

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#2 greg27610


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Posted 08 March 2017 - 10:37 PM

An ATP swab measures ATP (Adenotriphosphate) in RLUs (relative light units). This is an indicator swab that tells you how clean a surface is. Our plant sets an UCL of 25 RLU's for pre-op swabs.


An allergen swab measures specific allergen proteins and should be used after such runs. You absolutely can not replace ATP with allergen swabs since it will not tell you what proteins are picked up. The only rationale I can follow is if your ATP test show a value of zero then you can deduce that there are no allergens present. I would not recommend this approach as it could lead to sanitation woes.

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#3 Parkz58


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Posted 09 March 2017 - 03:56 PM

I agree with Greg27610 - utilizing ATP swabs for cleaning verification is good practice, but it is NOT a substitution for allergen swabbing.  Even if your ATP swabs show a zero reading, there may still be very small amounts of residual protein on the surface...especially considering that an ATP swabbing area is only a small representative sample of the rest of the surface(s).  That is to say, the small square you swab with an ATP swab may be clean, but the area right next to it might have trace amounts of protein on it.


For best results, use both ATP and allergen swabs in your program...start by using the ATP swabs, which will tell you (more or less) if your surface(s) is/are clean.  Then, move to allergen swabs.  But do not attempt to use them interchangeably, because they perform very different functions.

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#4 smgendel


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Posted 09 March 2017 - 04:12 PM

I agree with the other responses that ATP swabs and allergen swabs measure different things and are used for different purposes.  


An ATP swab can be thought of as providing the same type of information as a Total Plate Count.  It is a measure (of sorts) of the effectiveness of cleaning and sanitation.  However, a surface with low or no ATP can still have a large amount of residual protein - including allergen proteins.  The allergen swab looks for allergen proteins.  Conversely, depending on your operation and ingredients, you could have no allergens but still have a sanitation problem.  


The need for either or both types of swabs should be clear from your hazard analysis and supply chain controls, and should be a part of your food safety plan.  

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#5 Ryan M.

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Posted 09 March 2017 - 05:26 PM

Agree with points above, however a swab surface is a swab surface regardless of the implement and test kit used.  You are only sampling that surface you swab so regardless if it is ATP or specific to an allergen that is your only representation of the results.


I would HIGHLY recommend obtaining rinse water samples where possible for allergen testing.  When sampled appropriately these will provide a much better representation of the presence/absence of allergen residues.  I know this isn't practical in all applications, but where practical use this method versus a swab.

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