Quality Testing

Indicator Organisms

The most common tests that are performed for quality testing include Aerobic Plate Count, coliform count, and E. coli count. These are known as “indicators” because they are used to assess food safety and sanitation without looking for specific pathogens.  These organisms can be used to determine shelf life, potential risk as well as compliance with set criteria. Quality Testing, or indicator testing, can be used for both product and environmental samples

Aerobic Plate Count (APC)

  • Indicator of bacterial level in a food product
  • Gauge of the quality or freshness of a product/how well a surface was cleaned
  • Does not tell you what types of organisms are present
  • May not measure the entire population, only bacteria that grow in the presence of oxygen at a medium temperature range (roughly human body temp)
  • Aerobic Plate Count is also known as
    • Total Plate Count
    • Standard Plate Count
    • Mesophilic Plate Count


  • Specific group of bacteria that originate in the soil or in animals
  • Common to the environment in which we live and are naturally found in some products, particularly produce
  • Sanitation procedures should always be in place with the goal of eliminating them from the food processing environment
  • Commonly used as an indicator of the sanitary quality of foods, water, and processing environment
  • Surface testing can indicate potential issues with sanitation procedures and risk for contamination

E. coli (non-pathogenic)

  • Specific type of coliform that originates in the gut of warm-blooded animals and can also be found in environmental reservoirs
  • Many different types of E. coli, many of them are not harmful
  • For quality testing purposes, the E. coli being tested is referred to as “non-pathogenic” or “generic” E. coli
  • Used as an indicator of fecal contamination and can indicate risk potential for product and food processing environment
  • Different than testing for pathogenic E. coli which could be most commonly designated as E. coli O157:H7 or other pathogenic strains.
  • Presence of non-pathogenic E. coli may not indicate pathogenic presence
  • Any E. coli is a red flag that something went wrong in the process to allow contamination to occur and could indicate a food safety risk

Additional Tests

MarketFresh has additional tests available for quality testing which may be appropriate for your specific application. 

  • Yeast/Mold
  • Lactic Acid Bacteria
  • Enterobacteriaceae
  • Psychrotrophs
  • Air sampling

MarketFresh provides a consultative approach to testing because we believe that you need knowledge to provide safe and wholesome products to your customers.  Please Contact Us to discuss your specific needs.