What place does ATP testing have in food production facilities

Discussions with a range of food industry professionals in Australia has left little doubt; ATP testing has its place in a robust hygiene process, but it has its limitations, and it isn’t perfect – why?

Research by renowned biochemistry company Kikkoman Biochemifa has shed some interesting light on the process:

When you swab for ATP, you are only getting a third of the picture.


ATP testing is all based around a slightly flawed assumption- that ATP is a stable molecule that remains unchanged within organic residue.

In reality, ATP is easily hydrolysed to ADP and AMP by metabolic processes, heat treatment, or under acidic and alkaline conditions. Simply put, ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) will release a phosphoryl  group to become ADP (Adenosine Di-Phosphate) and again to become AMP (Adenosine Mono-Phosphate).

The result: once food has been exposed to heat, water, acidic or alkaline properties, you may be testing for only a fraction of the residue that is there.

This is borne out by the simple fact that testing has shown ATP levels can drop below pass limits after basic cleaning with water.


So what is the answer?

If ATP isn’t destroyed, but simply degrades, then the simple answer is to read the degraded products as well: ADP and AMP. By swabbing for total adenylates, you can still get the full picture, no matter how much processing the food has been through.

But can this be done?

Enter Kikkoman’s A3 System.

Chemists at Kikkoman Biochemifa’s Research and Development Division believed there was a better way to measure cleanliness, and set out to prove it. Traditional ATP machines measure the light that is created by converting ATP into AMP. Kikkoman furthered this process by creating a patented chemical that could transform AMP back into ATP, and give off further light. They then went one further and allowed ADP to be converted into ATP as well – and thus securing the complete picture.

Extensive testing soon proved the power of this technology, with readings typically being ten times higher or more than conventional ATP tests.

The new tests could also detect foods that historically were considered undetectable, and could accurately determine if a surface had been cleaned adequately, and not simply washed with water and/or chemicals.

Read more at A3rapid.com or get in touch with one of the team.