Implementation of ATP and Microbial Indicator Testing for Hygiene Monitoring in a Tofu Production Facility Improves Product Quality and Hygienic Conditions of Food Contact Surfaces: A Case Study

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2021 Mar 1;87(5):e02278-20. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02278-20. Epub 2020 Dec 23.


Rapid ATP testing and microbiological enumeration are two common methods to monitor the effectiveness of cleaning and sanitation in the food industry. In this study, ATP testing and microbiological enumeration were implemented at a tofu production facility with the goal of improving cleaning practices and overall plant hygiene. Results from ATP monitoring were used to target areas of the production environment needing additional cleaning; ATP results were verified by microbiological enumeration of aerobic microorganisms, lactic acid bacteria, and yeasts and molds. Products from the production line were enumerated for the same microorganisms to determine if there was an impact on product quality. After the implementation of ATP monitoring and targeted cleaning, there was a statistically lower proportion of swabs that failed to meet established sanitary requirements for ATP, aerobic microorganisms, and lactic acid bacteria (p < 0.05), but not for yeasts and molds. ATP swabs and microbiological enumeration agreed on site hygiene 75.1% (72.3-77.7%, 95% CI) of the time. Product data indicated that unpasteurized finished products contained a statistically lower microbial load of the three groups of organisms following implementation of the practices (p < 0.05).ImportanceCleaning and sanitation are critical to maintaining safe and high-quality food production. Monitoring these activities is important to ensure proper execution of procedure and to assure compliance with regulatory guidelines. The results from monitoring activities can direct targeted cleaning of areas with higher risk of contamination from foodstuffs and microorganisms. The results of this study show that ATP monitoring and microbiological enumeration are useful tools to verify and improve the efficacy of cleaning and sanitation practices, which can have a positive impact on both plant hygiene and product quality. However, testing regimes and critical parameters will vary based on the product and facility.