How to Monitor the Hygiene Indicator and Microbial Contamination in Food Production?

Maintaining the highest standards of hygiene in food production facilities holds utmost importance in safeguarding consumer health and well-being. Strict adherence to hygiene practices is essential for ensuring the production of safe and wholesome food. Additionally, it plays a critical role in preventing the proliferation of harmful bacteria and microbial contamination. In this article, we will delve deeply into the captivating world of hygiene indicators. We will explore their significant role in monitoring hygiene conditions within food production facilities. By comprehending and effectively utilizing these indicators, food producers can proactively identify potential risks. And they can implement appropriate measures to guarantee the utmost cleanliness and safety. Brace yourself for an enlightening journey as we unravel the pivotal role of hygiene indicators in upholding impeccable hygiene standards in the realm of food production.


Total Viable Count vs Total Plate Count

When it comes to assessing bacterial populations, two common terms often come into play: TVC and TBC. But what exactly do they mean, and how do they differ?

TVC, short for Total Viable Count, provides valuable insights into the hygienic state of a production environment. This indicator focuses on estimating the number of viable or live cells capable of growing into distinct colonies. By conducting a total agar plate count, where samples are incubated at specific temperatures, the number of visible colonies is counted. The TVC serves as a powerful tool in identifying potential microbial burdens and sources of contamination. It enables producers to gauge the health of their production process and make informed decisions accordingly.

On the other hand, TBC, or Total Bacteria Count, takes a broader approach. Instead of distinguishing between viable and non-viable cells, TBC considers the count of all cells, including both dead and alive ones. It provides a comprehensive picture of the overall bacterial population in a given sample. This information can be useful in certain contexts, such as research or assessing general microbial presence.


So, in a nutshell, the key difference lies in the focus of these counts. TVC zooms in on viable cells that have the potential to grow into colonies, helping pinpoint active microbial issues. Meanwhile, TBC casts a wider net, encompassing all bacterial cells—live or deceased.

Understanding the distinction between TVC and TBC is crucial for effective monitoring and decision-making in the realm of hygiene and microbial control. Armed with this knowledge, food producers can better assess the microbial landscape, take proactive measures to maintain hygiene standards, and ensure the production of safe and wholesome food for consumers.


Hygiene Indicator Coliform Bacteria

Coliform bacteria are like the alarm bells of fecal contamination, often relied upon for monitoring purposes. Detecting these bacteria on surfaces or food items signals the need to improve hygienic conditions in the production process. It’s a wake-up call for producers to take immediate action and ensure the highest standards of cleanliness to keep consumers safe.

Tip: Japan has specific legislation about coliforms. Check the website of the Japanese Authorities for more information.

Recall Coliform Bacteria

According to the Fera Horizonscan report of 2022, a total of 94 violations of compositional standards of Japan were recorded due to the presence of Coliform Bacteria. All of these affected products were shipped to Japan.


Hygiene Indicator the Enterobacteriaceae

Enterobacteriaceae, a family of bacteria, are naturally found in the intestinal flora of both humans and animals. These versatile microorganisms are not limited to our bodies; they also thrive in various environmental niches such as soil and water. However, it’s crucial to note that while some genera within this family are harmless, others can pose a significant threat to human health, causing severe illnesses. Familiar examples of enterobacteria genera include Cedecea, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Escherichia, Hafnia, Klebsiella, Kluyvera, Morganella, Proteus, Rahnella, Salmonella, Serratia, Shigella, and Yersinia. Being aware of the presence and characteristics of these bacteria aids in understanding potential risks and taking necessary precautions to safeguard public health.

Recall Enterobacteriaceae

In 2022, the food industry experienced 15 recalls linked to Enterobacteriaceae. According to the insightful Fera Horizonscan report, this concerning bacteria was discovered in various products, including dog chews, fat bovine, and even milk. The findings emphasized the critical importance of thorough monitoring and stringent quality control measures to ensure the safety and well-being of consumers. It serves as a reminder that constant vigilance is crucial in maintaining the integrity and purity of food products.


Hygiene Indicator Enterococci

Enterococci, commonly encountered in fermented foods, can sometimes be unwelcome contaminants. Their presence in food has long been associated with substandard hygiene during production and processing. However, interestingly, Enterococci also have a positive side. They are deliberately used as starter cultures in fermenting various food products. These mighty microorganisms are believed to contribute significantly to the tantalizing taste and aroma of fermented foods. In a different context, when it comes to water, the presence of Enterococci takes on a different meaning. It indicates fecal contamination, suggesting bacteria may have entered through waste. Monitoring the presence of Enterococci in water helps identify potential risks and prompts appropriate measures to maintain water safety.

Recall Enterococci

In 2019, the FSAI states that a recall of a range of Celtic Pure bottled waters is being undertaken, due to some water products testing positive for the presence of a number of bacteria, namely Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli or Enterococci. For more information, please read the article of FSAI.


Hygiene Indicator Yeasts and Molds

Yeasts and molds pose a significant threat to food products, as they can quickly contaminate and cause rapid spoilage. What’s more concerning is that certain molds have the potential to produce toxic or allergenic substances, making them potential health hazards. The ability of these organisms to spread swiftly through dust particles and aerosols puts surfaces in the production environment constantly at risk of contamination. Thus, it is crucial to acknowledge their presence and include them in the sampling plans for general hygiene monitoring.

When we mention “mold,” we typically refer to the visible portion of fungi that can be found on the surface of contaminated food. However, beneath the surface lies the mycelium, a network of fungal threads that remains invisible to the naked eye. Certain molds and yeasts are intentionally used in industrial processes like cheese production, but beware, some molds can produce harmful toxins called mycotoxins. Additionally, almost all molds have the potential to act as allergens, primarily through their ability to form spores.

Understanding the risks associated with yeasts and molds is essential for maintaining food safety. By practicing good hygiene, monitoring regularly, and taking precautions, we can ensure safe and wholesome food production while mitigating microorganism-related risks.

Recall Yeast and Molds

In the year 2022, the food industry encountered a series of recalls that caught everyone’s attention. A total of 7 recalls were initiated due to yeast contamination, while an additional 3 recalls were prompted by the presence of molds. These incidents shed light on the critical importance of stringent quality control measures to prevent the proliferation of these unwanted microorganisms. It serves as a stark reminder that constant vigilance and effective monitoring are necessary to maintain the highest standards of food safety and protect consumer health.



Indicator organisms, such as bacteria, yeasts, and molds, play a pivotal role in the ongoing battle for food safety. They act as vigilant guardians, helping food producers monitor hygiene conditions and detect microbial contamination. By identifying these organisms, producers can swiftly implement necessary actions to enhance hygiene practices and thwart contamination risks. Maintaining impeccable hygiene standards is not just a goal; it’s a necessity. It ensures the safety and quality of food products, safeguards consumer health, and ensures compliance with regulatory standards. Together, we can create a safer and healthier food environment by harnessing the power of indicator organisms.


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