What is a Total Plate Count?

Why do we use Total Plate Counts?

In this article, we’re introducing you to what a Total Plate Count (TPC) is, also known as Standard Plate Count (SPC) or Total Viable Cells (TVC).

Surface swabs that are taken in the kitchen or food factory are used in conjunction with the TPC in order to test the general cleaning and sanitation of equipment and surfaces.

The more general bacteria that grow on the agar plate, the greater the indication that cleaning and sanitising did not take place often enough or occurred incorrectly.

How Does This Work?

A  10 x 10 cm swab is taken of a surface by the auditor in the kitchen or food factory. These can be plates, equipment such as cutting boards, slicing machines, and tables. These swabs are transported to our SANAS accredited lab, where they are tested by our lab technicians. 1ml of the swab solution (ringer solution) is pipetted onto a petri dish and the TPC medium is added.

Why Do We Do This?

As we all know, bacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye. So we need to be able to see the bacteria in order to determine if they are present, and if present how many bacteria there are. In order to be able to easily see bacteria, we grow the bacteria using certain nutrients in what is called agar. The bacteria grow in “colonies” that allow us to see and count them.

These colonies start as a single bacterial cell that multiplies thousands of times until they grow to an amount that forms a colony. Much like the early settlers in South Africa, a single-family eventually builds a house, and another, and another, until a small village, town and colony develop. Each colony is counted as 1 bacteria (colony forming unit) or CFU. If there are more than 300 colonies (cfu/ml) on the plate, the swab is considered contaminated. (High Plate Count). This tells us that the cleaning and sanitising of the area swabbed was not cleaned and sanitised correctly.

How To Prevent Bacteria From Growing

As part of the FCS Hygiene Audit, we have set out the requirements that will prevent the growth of bacteria on equipment and surface. These areas are covered under the Cleaning Procedures section of the report. These procedures are based on microbiological best practices that have been proven to prevent and eliminate the growth of bacteria. Following these procedures is therefore highly recommended.

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