How can alcohol manufacturers be sure that they are shipping clean products? 

How can they rule out any contamination?

The answer lies in your elementary science textbook. That’s right, it’s by measuring ATP! One of the most abundant molecules in living organisms is essential for keeping your drinks safe. 

We’ve put together some common questions and answers about ATP testing. If you want to know how ATP testing improves safety and function in the ethanol manufacturing industry, read on. 

What Is ATP Testing and Why Do We Use It?

Adenosine triphosphate or ATP is an energy molecule found in all living cells. We can now use forms of testing for ATP to provide evidence of the cleanliness of a particular service.

Just because a surface appears clean on the outside does not mean that it is. Of course, some bacteria or debris do not appear directly.

It is possible that food that makes contact with the surface can become contaminated. It is important to lower the risk of contamination as much as possible on that particular site.

ATP testing was first used in the food industry decades ago. Today, hospitals use ATP testing as an essential tool to prevent infection.

It is important to note that most forms of ATP testing do not measure the colony-forming units or CFUs on the surface. Instead, the measure of ATP only detects organic matter left behind. It does not give an accurate representation of how much of a particular bacteria or virus is present.

Nonetheless, this invaluable tool helps improve systems for cleaning industrial equipment.

How Do You Complete ATP Testing?

Engineers conduct ATP testing using a luminometer. A luminometer is a device that measures ATP off of a testing swab.

After cleaning personnel have performed cleaning, they wipe the swab over the surface. Next, that swab is then inserted into the luminometer. This will measure the overall ATP level.

The luminometer reports the amount of ATP in a unit known as relative light units or RLUs.

An increased amount of organic matter present equals a higher number of RLUs. Therefore, we can tell if the surface was not cleaned effectively. Contaminated surfaces display an increased amount of RLUs on the luminometer.

Data table showing different levels of cleanliness based on the luminometer reports.
Clear Solution USA clients have found that after using our products the ATP levels on their equipment surfaces has averaged below 10 which puts them in the “Ultra Clean” category.

Why Is ATP Testing Beneficial?

The use of a luminometer in evidence-based studies improves overall cleanliness by nearly 40%. ATP can provide an objective, quantifiable statistic. This helps directly measure the adequacy of cleaning procedures.

It provides clear data to identify where cleaning processes need to improve. This can help develop everything from training protocols to cleaning systems and equipment.

One of the main benefits of ATP testing is validating existing cleaning systems and processes. This is useful in hospitals particularly in special units where sterility is a must. ATP testing in other industries can play a major role in saving lives and promoting health.

When to Swab for ATP?

In general, the best way to perform ATP testing is to swab after cleaning but before sanitation. The reason is that sanitizer does not work well on a dirty surface. Not verifying beforehand that the surfaces clean could potentially waste sanitizer.

This sequence of events also reduces interference from sanitizer on the swab.

Can I Use ATP to Detect Viruses on Surfaces?

Manufacturers must maintain the highest possible standard of cleaning for food safety. In light of the current pandemic, many food processors are taking additional steps and precautions.

These aim to increase the frequency and effectiveness of cleaning operations. They are also hoping to validate their cleaning methods and the effectiveness of their strategies.

However, most ATP testing equipment cannot detect viruses including the coronavirus. Viruses are distinct from bacteria, and while they may contain RNA or DNA, they do not typically contain ATP. Therefore a negative reading from a luminometer does not mean that viruses have been effectively cleaned off of the surface.

ATP Testing for Ethanol Manufacturers

Alcoholic beverages require exceptional cleanliness and sanitation protocols. This ensures premium quality and safety. Wine, beer, or hard cider usually requires planned microbial spoilage control to keep the beverage safe and fresh.

One problem is that alcohol directly inhibits the enzyme that turns microbial ATP into a signal that can appear on the luminometer. Additionally most alcoholic beverages today ship carbonated, with the exception of one or liquor.

The issue is that carbonic acid inhibits the growth of microbial organisms. Further, many wines have a low pH which means that they will selectively inhibit certain organisms from growing.

This creates a major problem for using ATP testing in ethanol manufacturing and alcohol production.

How Can Manufacturers Avoid These Problems?

Manufacturers need to develop a rapid testing method that works better. The solution needs to still function in the presence of carbonation and alcohol.

The key is to filter a certain amount of beverages before testing the alcoholic beverages directly. With this strategy, the filter membranes can be transferred into dishes that include special enrichment material and media. These dishes support specific bacterial and microbial growth.

Once this transfer has occurred the dishes incubate for approximately 24 hours at the correct temperature. The specific temperature is determined by the microorganism sampled.

Once incubation has begun, an aliquot of the enrichment broth can be sampled and tested. If the filtered alcohol contains microorganisms, it will be clear on the enrichment medium during the incubation.

Various companies have developed more rapid means of performing this operation specifically for ethanol manufacturers.

The Importance of ATP Testing

In today’s market, ATP testing is a must for ethanol manufacturers. There is simply no room for error in a safety protocol. The competition is too high, and health is at stake. 

Fortunately, ATP testing provides a well-packaged solution to this problem. With some modifications, standard testing can be used to keep surfaces clean in ethanol manufacturing. This is a reliable tool that is a win-win for everyone from manufacturer to consumer.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other material on how your company can maintain its commitment to safety.