ATP Testing

Testing ATP Monitoring for Common Sense
ATP Meter

While the methods to clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment in the healthcare environment vary, the need to measure the effectiveness of cleaning practices is universal. 

Environmental Services (EVS) managers need quick and actionable data to measure the performance of EVS staff and ensure cleaning has been completed according to standards. Using complementary data analysis software, EVS departments can use ATP test results to troubleshoot problem areas in the hospital, evaluate cleaning methods and procedures, and set goals for improvements.

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ATP Monitoring

Chart your way to perfect hygiene. Common Sense ATP Monitoring utilizes SureTrend Software to produce easily interpreted charts to analyze the data and determine continual protocol performance and adjustments.

SureTrend Software Monitoring for Common Sense

What is ATP monitoring?

ATP monitoring is a rapid testing method used by food and beverage processors to quickly assess the cleanliness of surfaces or liquid samples from such places as CIP systems.

Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is present in all organic material and is the universal unit of energy used in all living cells. ATP is produced and/or broken down in metabolic processes in all living systems. Processes such as photosynthesis in plants, muscle contraction in humans, respiration in fungi, and fermentation in yeast are all driven by ATP. Therefore, most foods and microbial cells will contain some level of naturally occurring ATP. Hygiena luminometers (in conjunction with ATP swabs) use bioluminescence to detect residual ATP as an indicator of surface cleanliness. The presence of ATP on a surface indicates improper cleaning and the presence of contamination, including food residue, allergens and/or bacteria. This implies a potential for the surface to harbor and support bacterial growth.

ATP monitoring is used in food and beverage facilities to confirm that ATP presence is eliminated or minimized by effective sanitation procedures. ATP monitoring prevents cross-contamination, ensures product integrity, potentially improves product shelf life, protects brand reputation, and complies with GMP standards and HACCP requirements.

How does ATP monitoring work?

Hygiena ATP testing devices contain a natural enzyme found in fireflies. This enzyme produces a simple bioluminescence (light-producing) reaction when it comes into contact with ATP. Using bioluminescence technology, the SystemSURE Plus and EnSURE luminometers can measure extremely low levels of ATP collected with testing devices. Measuring the amount of bioluminescence from an ATP reaction provides an excellent indication of surface cleanliness or water quality because the quantity of light generated by the reaction is directly proportional to the amount of ATP present in the sample. The bioluminescence reaction is immediate so results can be processed at the testing site in seconds. Results are expressed numerically on the luminometer screen in Relative Light Units (RLU).

Bioluminescence is the result of a biochemical reaction and is the science behind which Hygiena ATP detection tests. The reaction includes the following elements:

  • Luciferin /Luciferase -naturally occurring in fireflies
  • Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the energy molecule of all living organisms
  • Oxygen- a catalyst
  • Luciferin /Luciferase + ATP + O2 == == Light output
Luciferin Luciferase plus ATP plus O2 - What is ATP Testing?

The reaction occurs in two steps:

1. The substrate combines with ATP and oxygen, which is controlled by the enzyme.

2. The chemical energy in step 1 excites a specific molecule (the combination of Luciferin and Luciferase). The result is decay which is manifested as photon emission, or light production. The light is simply a byproduct of the chemical reaction and does not depend on light.

Comparing RLU values for Common Sense

What is an RLU?

RLU stands for Relative Light Unit and is the unit of measure used in bioluminescence. Luminometers measure and quantify light with an RLU output. Because manufacturers use different sensor technologies and algorithms for adding up the photons, RLU measurements will vary from system to system. However, because the ATP bioluminescence reaction is linear, the more ATP present means the more light will be present.

(Comparing RLU values is like comparing Fahrenheit and Celsius; they are two different scales for the same temperature.)

Are there any studies/ white papers on ATP testing?

There are several published articles on ATP testing in the food & beverage processing industry. Visit the resources library on for links and full texts of many of these studies. Manufacturers offer seemingly scientific research supporting their own ATP systems. It is important for customers to understand that only objective studies conducted by independent laboratories should be accepted as scientific evidence of product performance. Silliker Laboratories, the leading international food testing and safety laboratory, conducted an independent study comparing five commercial ATP systems. This study found that Hygiena’s products offer superior linearity, sensitivity, repeatability, and accuracy.

Can I Compare RLU counts to CFU plate counts?

ATP systems detect the presence of ATP and cannot distinguish microbial ATP from other organic ATP left behind after cleaning. RLU results could potentially be microbial cells, organic ATP from product residue, or both. This makes comparing RLU to CFU difficult. Studies have shown that there is anywhere between 60-90% correlation between RLU and CFU readings depending on the environment in which the system is used. The presence of ATP on the surface indicates that it has not been adequately cleaned. The primary purpose of cleaning is to remove product residue from product contact surfaces. Effective cleaning simultaneously removes the material capable of supporting microbial survival and growth, as well as many of the microbes themselves.

What is biofilm?

A biofilm is formed when microorganisms find a receptive environment where they are exposed to food and moisture. The microorganisms work together as a population and secrete a sticky polymer to form a solid matrix attached to a surface. Once a biofilm is established, it is very difficult to eliminate because the microbes are reinforced and protected by the matrix, making them very resistant to sanitizer. Biofilms are often responsible for poor product quality and/or lost product due to contamination, causing costly damage to both product and equipment. The threat of a biofilm can be eliminated with proper ATP hygiene monitoring, allowing early detection and removal of food residue – thus eliminating the food source for possible biofilm-forming microbes. In addition, Hygiena ATP swabs have a unique detergent on the swab tip that cuts through biofilm and exposes the underlying cells. If a biofilm has already developed, there will be more ATP on a surface, which will result in a higher RLU result.

When should I do ATP testing?

ATP testing should ideally be done after cleaning, but before sanitizer is applied. Because sanitizers are less effective when product residues are on the surface, it’s best to eliminate all ATP before the sanitizer step. In some facilities, testing after cleaning is not possible. In these scenarios testing after sanitizing is acceptable.

ATP Swap Testing Clean Sanitize by Common Sense
hygenia for Common Sense

*Thresholds or limits in this chart are suggested values only and do not represent a standard for all industries and facilities. Each facility in each industry should consider setting their clean levels after conducting a series of tests.

Hygiena Suggested ATP Levels of Clean by Common Sense

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is an ATP Inspection?

A: An ATP inspection is a type ATP testing procedure carried out by authorized personnel in order to ensure that a premise meets the necessary standards for public safety and health. The purpose of an ATP inspection is to identify potential hazards present in the area so that they can be addressed before they pose a threat to public health and safety.

Q: How is an ATP Machine (bacteria measuring device) used?

A: An ATP meter is used to take an APT measurement of the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in a sample. ATP is a nucleotide that is used for energy storage and transfer in cells. It is important to check the level of ATP in cells because it can be an indicator of cell health. Through ATP swabbing an ATP monitor uses a chemical reaction to measure the amount of ATP present in a sample.

Need ATP Testing for Your New Jersey Facility?
Call 609-709-7988 or Contact Us Now