Reduce the Impact of Contamination Events with Rapid Microbial Methods


Reduce the Impact of Contamination Events with Rapid Microbial Methods

October 2011

Scott Scdoris, Director, Food and Beverage, Celsis Rapid Detection, as featured in Food Safety

Production doesn’t stand still. Raw ingredients are combined to make finished food and beverage products. Goods are packaged; boxes are cartoned; pallets are wrapped. Our production lines don’t stop…until they have to.

For companies using traditional methods to test for microbiological contamination, shutting down the line due to a potential contamination event is like opening a fire hydrant and watching money gush out. By the time you’ve detected a problem, the company’s already invested quite a bit of time and effort, and has significant capital tied up in inventory.

Rapid Methods for Enhanced Risk Management
You can cap the hydrant, or at least get the flow down to a mere trickle, by taking advantage of the risk management benefits of rapid microbial methods (RMMs). Earlier detection through rapid methods reduces the potential impact of events by reducing the volume of product that may be impacted—specifically, product that needs to be scrapped or reworked.

By identifying a problem faster, corrective action can be initiated sooner and undoubtedly more effectively. It is easier to isolate and identify events that may have led to a contamination event yesterday than to try to troubleshoot those same events days or even weeks later. You may easily remember the events of yesterday, but recalling precise details of what was different 5 days earlier is a lot trickier.

Traditional agar plating is slow—requiring from 4 to as many as 14 days to deliver results, depending on the product specifications as well as expected shelf life. In the example above, a company using the traditional agar plating method will incubate the product for 2–10 days, and then wait an additional 2–4 days to observe the plate for any visible contamination.

Fortunately, with Rapid Detection companies have another option of testing for contaminants. Utilizing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) bioluminescence technology, companies can significantly reduce the time required to obtain microbial screening results.

Rapid Microbial Methods: Increasing Speed and Ensuring Safety
Methods such as post-production tear-downs or pH monitoring are unreliable and inadequate in ensuring against microbial contamination. The traditional agar plating method is slow, requiring a lab technician to collect and prepare samples in a growth medium and then, depending on product specifications and expected shelf life, wait anywhere from 4–14 days to individually inspect the samples for visual—and often very subjective—indicators of microbial growth. These slow, unreliable and subjective processes tie up significant amounts of money each year in working capital and excess inventory requirements, and also cause a delayed and, therefore, expensive response to contamination events when they occur.

By contrast, rapid methods deliver definitive results much faster. The Celsis system is an objective, instrument-based diagnostic assay that is simple yet state-of-the art in its application of ATP bioluminescence technology. ATP has become the industry standard for the rapid microbial screening of ultra high-throughput, aseptic and extended shelf life dairy and beverage products. Its use is growing among a wide variety of products, including syrups, soups and broths, brewed tea, sports and nutritional drinks, pudding, infant formula, condiments and sauces, nut milks, fruit and vegetable juices and more.

ATP bioluminescence is applicable to a wide range of sample types and Celsis provides customers with kits that are specific to the products they are testing. A rapid screening of these products quickly and accurately identifies the few batches that carry bioburden—allowing the majority of your production run to be released to market confidently, rapidly and efficiently.

Rapid as a Competitive Differentiator
Some of the largest and most successful companies in the food and beverage industry benefit from the efficiencies offered by RMM systems.

No one stands still. Products are packaged; boxes are cartoned; pallets are wrapped. What has changed is the potential financial impact of contamination events. From a mighty hydrant to a minor trickle, earlier and faster detection with a rapid microbial method has improved the risk profile and generated company-wide savings.

What is ATP bioluminescence technology and how does it work?
All living organisms contain the compound ATP as a critical part of their energy metabolism. The Celsis Rapid Detection RMM system begins by treating samples with a proprietary reagent that reduces non-microbial sources of ‘background’ ATP to ensure sensitive, accurate and reproducible results. The standard ATP bioluminescence assay uses the enzyme luciferase to catalyze the consumption of microbial ATP. The luciferase causes a reaction that generates a photon of yellow-green light (similar to that of a firefly) when microbial ATP is detected. The samples are then screened by an instrument called a luminometer. If there is microbial ATP present, the instrument will detect the light and indicate to the user that the sample is contaminated.

For example, on the second timeline in the image above, we see that using Celsis’ ATP Test Method reduces the microbiological testing time significantly. This means that detection of the problem and initiation of corrective action happens within hours of production. The benefits of rapid detection also extend to the screening of replacement product. In addition, this testing method also reduces the total time products must be held in micro-hold to identify a contamination and then to clear the replacement product to as few as 4 days (instead of 8–28 days the traditional method affords).


Scott Scdoris serves as Director, Food and Beverage for Celsis Rapid Detection. Experienced in microbiological testing procedures for the dairy and beverage industry, Mr. Scdoris has been with Celsis for more than 10 years and works closely with Celsis’ customers, product management and technical support teams to develop customer-focused innovations. He helps prospective customers quantify the value of implementing Celsis Rapid Detection systems, and successfully implement and validate their systems. Prior to joining Celsis, he spent 15 years in quality control for the dairy industry, most recently as Quality Manager for Morningstar Foods, a division of Dean Foods in Gustine, CA. Mr. Scdoris graduated from Portland State University with a degree in biology. He can be contacted at

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