Key Considerations When Selecting a Rapid Detection Partner

Liquid products and some foods not quickly consumed face unique challenges. They need to taste and smell fresh when they reach consumers, yet traditional testing for contamination typically requires holding products for up to two weeks.

Fortunately, today’s leading beverage and food manufacturers have discovered the benefits of rapid detection of microbial contaminants. A rapid screening can provide reliable, reproducible results in as few as 48 hours, reducing product hold times by up to 12 days and resulting in significant economic benefits.

Testing and releasing in-spec products in only two days—instead of filling micro-hold space with two weeks’ worth of products awaiting test results (plus replacement and safety stock)—frees up valuable space in the warehouse. It releases 10 days’ worth of invested working capital and shortens the cash cycle so your company gets paid more quickly. Rapid screening also reduces the impact of contamination events by detecting potential, out- of-spec batches more quickly.

To fully realize the economic and productivity benefits of a rapid screening system, you must be selective when choosing an RD partner for your company. It is critical to understand exactly what your company needs to perform most efficiently and effectively. When the purchase decision is driven by the business need, you will be able to implement the best system for your company and quickly realize a return on your investment.

Shortening the Production Cycle with Lean Quality

Slow and unreliable methods—post-production teardowns, pH monitoring, and traditional agar plating—tie up millions of dollars each year in working capital and excess inventory requirements. These methods also cause a delayed and more costly response to contaminations when they do occur. Fortunately, over the past two decades, lean manufacturing initiatives have made their way into most industries, stripping waste and non-value-adding steps from the production process and saving companies billions. But why stop there? The same lean quality principles extend to microbial testing.

Rapid microbial methods offer an alternative to traditional monitoring methods for ultraheat-treated, aseptic, or extended-shelf-life dairy, food, and beverage products. During the past decade, adenosine triphosphate bioluminescence technology has become the industry standard for the rapid microbial screening of UHT aseptic and ESL dairy and beverage products. With results in as few as 48 hours, ATP screening enables companies to keep their safety standards high and the cost of quality low.

How Rapid Methods Work

To ensure quality and safety, products susceptible to microbial contamination but expected to be shipped contamination-free are screened before being released into distribution. A well-validated ATP rapid method can deliver reliable results in as few as 48 hours by identifying the ATP compound contained in all living organisms. Product samples are treated 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 a luminometer, an instrument that detects the reaction and indicates to the user that a sample is contaminated. A rapid screening of sample products quickly and accurately identifies batches that may carry bioburden, allowing the majority of your production runs to be released to market rapidly and efficiently.


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Figure 1. By dramatically reducing incubation and assay times, ATP enables much faster product release times.

Selecting the Right Rapid Method

Achieving fast and accurate results is possible only when the right rapid method is implemented. Dairy, food and beverage manufacturers of UHT, aseptic, or ESL products should consider these five criteria when selecting a rapid method for their facilities:

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