With the FSMA changing standard operating procedures to focus on prevention as opposed to damage control when it comes to foodborne pathogens, luminometer technology and ATP testing can enable detection, verification, and documentation to go hand-in-hand with your location’s revamped sanitary maintenance programs.

Luminometers measure the potential for bacterial presence, basically detecting if a given area is a welcome environment that could harbor bacterial growth if said bacteria were to land there.  

The light picked up by the luminometer is detected within the device by photomultiplier technology, says Tom Dewey, food safety global marketing manager of 3M, a company that produces the 3M Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System, among other sanitization technologies. Average room lighting delivers about 1 trillion photons per second, which makes the luminometer’s ability to read a single photon all that more impressive.

“After a test is inserted into the luminometer,” he says, “it quickly displays a result in terms of relative light units on its color touchscreen. The more light produced, the greater the contamination. Photomultiplier technology is a detection technology capable of detecting light down to a single photon. It is the most sensitive photo-detection technology commercially available and is used in several high-tech industries, including aerospace, medical, military and nuclear energy.”

There are a number of luminometer systems available on the market, and the majority of them include their own software to catalogue the results of the tests and maintain consistent documentation for FSMA checkups.

“A food processing establishment will test food contact surfaces after sanitation on a daily basis, so the size of the facility and the number of critical control points will determine how many test devices they use per day,” says  Lauren Roady, marketing manager at Hygiena, whose luminometer system, called the SystemSURE Plus, also gives immediate readings of any given water or production surface.

The 3M Clean-Trace System is offered as a complete system with the luminometer, 100 testing swabs and software as a package deal, with the options to include testing capabilities for hard surfaces, water, or both. For Hygiena’s SystemSURE Plus, all of the instruments are included with purchase of the software, which can be downloaded from their website, where a commissary can also order testing swabs as needed.

So basically, both the 3M Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System and the Hygiena SystemSURE Plus are primarily used for areas that have been sanitized but need to be scrutinized. Both include test swabs that can collect hard-to-reach areas and directly catalog all data for longterm analysis within their software systems, and as always, there are benefits to using both that can be further studied on their respective websites. At the end of the day however, it’s important to remember that no one test or testing technology can replace or eliminate the need for other food safety measures.

“It’s important to note that not all hazards are necessarily bacterial in food manufacturing,” Roady notes. “Consider one of the largest food safety concerns — allergens. This is a critical concern that food service establishments must address in their risk assessments. Also, many food safety risks aren’t introduced by the food ingredient being handled, but by the people working in those areas and touching those surfaces."