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Assessment of Hygienic Quality of Surfaces in Retail Food Service Establishments Based on Microbial Counts and Real-Time Detection of ATP

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Clean food contact surfaces are important in reducing the likelihood of foodborne disease transmission. The goal of this study was to assess and compare baseline cleanliness of food contact and environmental surfaces in retail food establishments by using ATP bioluminescence (ATP-B), visual assessment, and surface contact plates. Four hundred eighty-nine surface samples were collected from three food service establishments at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities (Minneapolis) and analyzed for either ATP (252) or total aerobic plate count bacteria (237). ATP levels ranged from a minimum of 4 relative light units (RLU; 0.60 log RLU) on a clean slicer to a maximum of 506,618 RLU (5.77 log RLU) on a dirty cutting board. The overall mean was 1,950 RLU (3.29 log RLU). Cutting boards had the highest ATP levels (mean, 5,495 RLU or 3.74 log RLU; median, 6,761 RLU or 3.83 log RLU). Of the 128 samples judged visually clean at the time of sampling, 70.3 % failed ATP-B testing. Sixty-one (26 % ) of the 237 total aerobic plate count samples yielded counts of over 125 CFU/50 cm2 (failed), and of those that failed, 40 % were assessed as visually clean before sampling. The highest average counts in CFU/50 cm2 were found on slicers (104) and cutting boards (87). The results of this study suggest that the current practice of evaluating food contact surface cleanliness by sight and touch to meet regulatory requirements might be inadequate. ATP-B testing may be an efficient tool to facilitate creation, implementation, and validation of more effective food contact surface cleaning in food establishments.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Health and Safety and School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Boynton Health Building, 410 Church Street S.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414, USA 2: 3M Corporate Headquarters, 3M Center, St. Paul, Minnesota 55144-1000, USA 3: Department of Environmental Health and Safety and School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Boynton Health Building, 410 Church Street S.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414, USA.

Publication date: April 1, 2011

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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