General recommendations

Biotech Laboratories provides a wide spectrum of microbiological analyses. Listed below are the major classifications. As we are expanding our range of testing frequently, if you require an analysis that is not listed please contact the directly by email. The major sample types are listed below.

Agribusiness – pet foods and stockfeeds
Air conditioning/warm water systems
Autoclave validation
Biosolids and soil
Estuarine waters; Fresh waters, Industrial waters - treated, recirculating, processed waters, sewage, recreational, drinking/potable, swimming pool and spa waters
Food and beverages
Food poisoning complaint Investigations
Laundry Verification
Medical devices
Micro-organism Identification
Microorganisms in abattoirs – meat surfaces, product contact surfaces and meat
Shelf life trials
Surfaces – food preparation and environmental
Sample collection

The introduction to ISO 17516 states that every cosmetic manufacturer has a responsibility for microbiological safety and quality of its products to ensure that they have been produced under hygienic conditions. Cosmetic products are not expected to be sterile. However they shall not contain excessive amounts of microorganisms nor microorganisms that have the potential to affect the product quality or consumer safety. Biotech Laboratories provides microbiological testing services for cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients which includes but is not limited to: Total Aerobic Microbial Counts, Total Yeast & Mould Counts, Candida albicans, E. coli, Bile-tolerant Gram Negative Bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

The testing for any specific pathogen in a drinking water sample is not indicated in general situations, either because the laboratory methods are unreliable, the organisms are in too low concentration to be detectable, or the costing for such analyses is excessive. The method of evaluating drinking water for the likely presence of pathogens is best performed by testing for indicator bacteria of contamination be that faecal or non-faecal in origin. Australian Drinking Water Guidelines recommend that faecal coliforms and Escherichia coli (E. coli) counts be performed.


Packaged (Bottled) Water, Packaged Ice and Mineral Water
The Australian Food Standards Code requires that microbial quality packaged water and packaged ice meets the following requirements; Escherichia. coli <100 CFU/mL. We are also able to test for Ralstonia species, Cupriavidus species and Gram negative bacteria associated with bottled water contamination.


Cooling Tower Water
The plate count of a cooling tower is recommended to be less than 100,000 CFU/mL and a Legionella count to be less than 10 CFU/mL. These analyses should be performed monthly.


Recreational Water
Recreational water can be categorised into primary (where head immersion is likely) and secondary (where only wading is performed). The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) recommends that primary contact recreational water should have a median (of 5 samples collected within a four week period) faecal coliform count not exceeding 150 CFU/100mL and an Enterococci count not exceeding 25 CFU/100mL and that secondary contact water should have a faecal coliform count not exceeding 1,000 CFU/100mL and an Enterococci count not exceeding 230 CFU/100mL for a random sample. However multiple sampling is recommended within a one month period and acceptable results differ for these analyses.


Water used for Washing Produce
The water used to wash fruit and vegetable should meet the standards set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Australian drinking water guidelines recommend that faecal coliforms and Escherichia coli be performed. In regional and rural areas tank, dam, lake, stream or bore water may require some form of disinfection, such as chlorination. It is important to remember that water storage tanks must regularly be cleaned and disinfected.


Swimming Pools and Spa Water
The Queensland Health Swimming and Spa Pool Water Quality and Operational Guidelines recommends for heated spa pools that the plate count should be less than 100 CFU/mL and that a Pseudomonas aeruginosa count, a Faecal coliform count and an Escherichia coli count be less than 1 CFU/100mL. Other authorities recommend a total coliform count and a coagulase positive staphylococci count of less than 1 CFU/100mL. In some situations a Legionella count should also be performed where the result should be less than 10 CFU/mL.


Reclaimed Water
The NHMRC and the Australian Water Resources Council recommend that unless otherwise approved by appropriate authorities, treated reclaimed water should have a faecal coliform count not exceeding 1,000 CFU/100mL. However multiple sampling is recommended at half hourly intervals and acceptable results differ for these analyses.

The performance of an aerobic microbial culture of rinse water as detailed in 'Infection control in Endoscopy' - GENCA and GESA 3rd Edition 2010 is required for all types of scopes. These protocols are primarily instituted to detect an increased residue of enteric bacteria following routine cleaning and disinfection which represents a surrogate marker of inadequate cleaning or of structural damage to the channels of the endoscope.

Total Viable Count performed as per ISO 13959-2009 "Water for haemodialysis and related therapies" and ISO 11663-2009 "Quality of dialysis fluid for haemodialysis and related therapies". The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation Standards 2001 and/or acceptable limits for Endotoxin levels in water used for dialysate and dialysate from European Pharmacopeia and ISO 13959-2009 and ISO 1163-2009. Note for all waters/dialysate (except Ultrapure Dialysate) Total Viable Counts of over 50 CFU/mL require action to be taken.

Whether to investigate soil contamination or based on government requirements bacterial analyses for faecal coliforms and/or Escherichia coli are often performed on environmental soil samples. Potting mixes can also be analysed for the presence of Legionella.

The examination of dust and air-conditioning surfaces (including ducts) for a quantitative measurement of bacteria and fungi per gram or per square centimetre, respectively, can be of assistance when investigating a dysfunctional building or being proactive in air quality maintenance. Air samples for microbiological analysis are based on either a filtered air sample (eg 20 to 1,000 litres) or an equivalent sampling technique utilizing a centrifugal air sampler. Results are given as organisms per cubic metre. Analyses include bacteria, yeast and moulds and thermoactinomycetes. Identification of dominant bacteria and fungi can also be provided.

The microbial quality of food is constantly under review by both the public and health authorities. All food processors (from manufacturing firms to school tuck shops) are required to ensure that safe food is supplied to customers. Bacterial food poisoning is the most common cause of food borne illness. Generally more than 90% of the cases of food poisoning each year are caused by Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus and pathogenic Escherichia coli. These analyses and other organisms, both pathogenic and indicator organisms are routinely performed by our laboratory. For specific information on analyses required or recommended for a food product contact the laboratory staff.


When evaluating the microbial quality of a food, to be held at a controlled temperature, there are two variables to consider, the time interval of performing the analyses and the organisms to be analysed.

It is recommended that as a minimum the food be evaluated at Day 0 (day of production), Expected Final Day and Max Day - Expected Final Day plus a quarter (25%) of the expected shelf life. For example, if a shelf life was set for 10 days, testing would be performed at Day 0, Day 10 and Day 15. Obviously by increasing the number of samples taken on a day and increasing the frequency of evaluation during the period more information and greater accuracy of results will occur. The Day Max sample provides valuable data to the manufacturer that the product will remain in good microbial quality if consumed (as often is the case) after the "Use By", "Best By" or "Expiry Date" and also helps cover  a degree of temperature abuse that may occur after the product has been purchased and is being transported by the purchaser.

When evaluating shelf life there are three groups of organisms to consider; indicator (such as plate count, yeast and moulds, coliforms, Enterobacteriacae, faecal coliforms etc.), spoilage (such as lactic acid bacteria, Brochothrix thermosphacta, Pseudomonas, yeast and moulds etc.) and food pathogens (Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Bacillus cereus and pathogenic Escherichia coli etc.)

Day 0 - samples are tested for pathogenic organisms and if requested - indicator organisms. Should any pathogens be present, further shelf life analysis should cease. Indicator or spoilage organisms can be tested at this point and a base line established so make further testing meaningful. Indicator organisims are often selected in shelf life analysis running longer than seven days. The specific organisms selected from each group will depend on the type of product under evaluation.

Expected Final Day - Indicator or spoilage organisms. Note:should the shelf life be longer than seven/eight  days it may be advisable to increase the number of days testing for Indicator or spoilage organisms. This information enables the client to monitor changes as they occur and vary the Expected Final Day if necessary.

Max Day -  pathogens

There is also a form of shelf life evaluation called "Temperature Abuse Shelf Life Evaluation" where the product is held at higher temperatures to mimic consumer abuse of storage conditions. In this situation Day 0 and Expected Final Day are only performed and the analyses performed on Expected Final Day includes all of organisms.

The major component of the hygiene of a kitchen, processing line or food production plant is the control of the cleaning of equipment, storage tray, utensils and preparative benches. A simple inexpensive test provides a quantitative test with has a sensitivity down to 0.4 CFU/square centimetre. The Australian Standard (AS 2997-1987) states that an acceptable limit to indicate satisfactory cleaning operations by this method is less than 6 CFU/square centimetre.

Many large food processors have in-house laboratories to perform some or all of their quality control evaluations. When these laboratories are not NATA accredited, an audit can yield useful information on the quality of the facility, training requirements of staff, and areas in which new technology could be used. Even though these laboratories may not meet, or may be preparing to meet NATA requirements for testing, it is useful to be aware of areas where simple changes can be made that will improve the specificity, sensitivity and reproducibility of analyses.

Another service offered is the performance of external audits of kitchen/food preparation facilities. Our experience in performing this service for a national food outlet for all its stores in Queensland and the Northern Territory has been well developed. The audit takes approximately one to three hours depending on the customers requirements. The full audit evaluates the facility based on food and surface microbiological sampling, temperature logging and area inspections ensuring both hygiene and our customers standards are being maintained.