Jump to content

  • Quick Navigation
- - - - -

ATP swabs, allergens, and pathogens

SQFswabs swabbing

  • You cannot start a new topic
  • Please log in to reply
7 replies to this topic

#1 Timbeau2


    Grade - Active

  • IFSQN Active
  • 10 posts
  • 1 thanks

  • United States
    United States

Posted 01 June 2016 - 08:03 PM

Hi everybody.

I'm new and at a smaller cookie dough manufacturing company who is aiming at getting SQF level 2 certification in a few months. Previously, they have not done any sort of swabs or microbial testing that I am aware of, so I am working on putting together those programs in order to verify cleaning, allergen program, etc. I was originally thinking I would just buy a meter and do regular ATP testing to verify our general cleaning, and allergen, environmental, pathogenic testing (have someone come in a swab or I swab and send them off to a lab for plate counts) just a few times per year after the initial round of tests.  


So I've started looking at swab kits and meters. The first one I looked at, the hygiena EnSURE looked great and even does pathogen testing! Great! So then I talk to someone representing the Biocontrol Lightening MVPIcon, which is way more expensive but does a form of allergen testing (and she said it would put all of my data in haccp plan format which sounded nice!) and she told me that the pathongen tests the EnSURE meter would do were not acceptable by FDA standards, which made me think they might not be acceptable for SQF and so I'm just not really sure about much at this point. 


Also, since it has not previously been done here, I really don't know where to start on frequency of any of these tests. Our production room is only about 2500 square feet, so it's not a very big operation, which I feel like should make things a lot simpler than they could be (especially for someone just starting out :gleam: ). I've read about doing a lot of ATP tests at first to find a starting point and then as you continue getting good results, you could back off to weekly or so. And then I thought I've read about people doing allergen maybe twice a year? I may have just made that up. I'm just trying to get an idea so I know what I'm talking about when I have to ask my boss to spend the money on all of this testing!


Feel free to comment on anything here. All advice, experience, or input is greatly appreciated! Thanks for everything!

#2 johntstuart


    Grade - Active

  • IFSQN Active
  • 21 posts
  • 11 thanks

  • United States
    United States

Posted 01 June 2016 - 09:34 PM

I work in a cookie factory as well, though we sell them cooked.  The frequency of any test should be done based off of a solid risk assessment.  


Before we can dive into specifics, a few more details would be good to know.


For example, do you make frozen or refrigerated cookie dough? Both?


Does your facility/building have any kind of history with any specific types pathogens? (Answer what you feel comfortable answering, just keep it in mind).


As for equipment, I would recommend keeping it as simple as possible and purpose built (Allergen tests for allergens, ATP meters for ATP swabs, etc).  Personally, I've found that devices that claim they do everything don't do anything particularly well.  As for pathogen testing, we do ATP tests here in the plant, though I do not recall the model that we use.  I would recommend doing the ATP tests during every Pre-Op.

Thanked by 1 Member:

#3 Timbeau2


    Grade - Active

  • IFSQN Active
  • 10 posts
  • 1 thanks

  • United States
    United States

Posted 02 June 2016 - 12:05 PM

Thanks for your reply! 

We do frozen, refrigerated, as well as cooked. And the plant has been around for a while and has never had any sort of problems with any pathogens. 

#4 Christopher.Fasching


    Grade - Active

  • IFSQN Active
  • 2 posts
  • 0 thanks

  • United States
    United States

Posted 07 June 2016 - 06:59 PM

I too looked at the Hygiena Ensure meter because it seemed like an all-in-one solution.  I did some pathogen testing with it but kept getting positives that I suspected were false so between that and the amount of time it took to incubate, prepare, etc. I decided to use a third party lab for pathogen testing which has been much more accurate plus they use accepted methodology and you get third party verification.


I do really like the Ensure meter for ATP testing though.  We ATP test all food contact surfaces post cleaning and prior to start up.


We are SQF level 3 but in the produce industry and that approach has worked for us.

#5 MsFS


    Grade - Active

  • IFSQN Active
  • 23 posts
  • 6 thanks

  • United States
    United States

Posted 07 June 2016 - 08:07 PM

I've used both systems as well as the Charm unit.  Personally the Charm is my favorite and seems to be a bit more particular as far as ATP testing goes.


For allergens, I would go with an allergen specific test to validate your cleaning protocol initially and on an infrequent basis and use the ATP for more frequent verification activities.


Pathogen testing needs to be pathogen specific.  Use an outside lab if you don't have the microbiological resources in-house.

#6 Mulan1010


    Grade - MIFSQN

  • IFSQN Member
  • 192 posts
  • 104 thanks

  • United States
    United States

Posted 07 June 2016 - 10:41 PM

Pathogen Testing - I would highly recommend you take the samples yourself and then outsource the actual Testing unless your lab is in a separate building and there is very limited and monitored traffic form the lab to your production facility.  If you perform the actual tests for pathogens in your facility and there is traffic from the lab to the production plant then you must have procedures in place and perform extra testing to prevent cross-contamination and to be able to verify and validate you are preventing it. 

As for testing, if you can test for a species or accepted indicator organism of that Pathogen rather than the actual pathogen itself you might be better off; If you test for the actual pathogen then the repercussions might be much harsher than if you test for a species or indicator organism of the pathogen.  I recommend you research this fully and consider the pro's and con's.  


ATP Testing - I have used several different ATP Units as well and I think they are all basically the same.  Of the four brands I have used, they all had decent software for recording the results.  Go with the unit that has the better deal for you over the long term.  Look at price of swabs, how many you will use and whether it is more feasible to purchase or contract the ATP unit from the company.  Try to get the company to agree to service the unit as part of the deal because it will need to be certified periodically just like a scale or thermometer.  (I have to admit that I am not sure how valid ATP results truly are but they do show consistency of your sanitation over time, auditors like to see that you are verifying sanitation in some way and the employees like the immediate feedback so for those reasons I am pro-ATP.) 

I don't know how to add it as an attachment but if you type in "Hygiena Lower and Upper RLU Limits for ATP Monitoring Programs" in your web browser it is a simple guidance on how to set your limits and doesn't require tons of testing.  Each company usually has recommendations of how to set limits; it is just nice to have something in writing to back up what you do. 


Allergen Verification and Validation - We are SQF Certified and follow under USDA Regulations.  We have found that the following are the best and simplest way for us to validate and verify.

  • To validate the cleaning process after Allergens we use a test kit specific for testing for Allergen Residues and use them on the equipment after it has been cleaned after producing that allergen.  We also send samples of any recirculating liquids and sometimes product to a certified lab such a FARRP. 
  • To verify our cleaning process we have a Supervisor or designated employee confirm and document that the same procedures we validated were followed and do this each time we clean after running an allergen. 

There are several articles on verifying and validating for allergens.  I recommend reading SQF's Guidance Document, even if you are not SQF Certified, for I think it does a good job of explaining what is expected in the industry to prevent Allergen Cross-Contact.  SQF Allergen Guidance - Safe Quality Food Institute  www.sqfi.com/wp-content/uploads/Allergen-Guidance-Document.pdf


Check with one of the Universities in the Country that have a food processing program if you need some help or consulting services; they can be a great source of information and help; especially if they are in your own State for they might receive grant money for assisting you.  We use ours often for training, testing and sometimes consulting.

#7 Tony-C


    Grade - FIFSQN

  • IFSQN Fellow
  • 3,378 posts
  • 1011 thanks

  • United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Koh Samui
  • Interests:My main interests are sports particularly football, pool, scuba diving, skiing and ten pin bowling.

Posted 09 June 2016 - 06:05 AM

Some sound advice offered in the previous posts.

I would use:
ATP swabs for verifying the cleanliness of food cantact surfaces*
Traditional swabs (TVC, Entero, Y&M) for environmental monitoring
Allergen specific tests such as ELISA for vaildating the removal of allergens*
External or remote laboratory for pathogen testing
External laboratory for product testing for presence of allergens

*SQF - There are also sensitive ATP test swabs available however the presence of ATP does not indicate the presence of protein which is the allergenic material. The use of these total protein swabs or the ATP sensitive swabs must be calibrated with the validated cleaning procedure by using them immediately after the validated method is used and recording the results of both the allergen specific test and the protein or ATP swab test.

Kind regards,



#8 Charles.C


    Grade - FIFSQN

  • IFSQN Moderator
  • 18,233 posts
  • 5113 thanks

  • Earth
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:SF

Posted 09 June 2016 - 06:57 AM

Hi Timbeau,


You don't mention which pathogens yr kit in OP is enabled for but it is likely significant as to whether the unit is officially  validated for the species mentioned.


Unless there is a good reason, ie risk assessment, for searching for species like Salmonella, the result will likely be negative but simultaneously inconclusive due detection/sampling limitations.


L.monocytogenes is an altogether different scenario from a US perspective.


Regarding frequency, this is typically approached via Zoning. Many threads here giving details. Plus Procedures from ATP kit Companies.

Kind Regards,



0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users