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What is the Difference between Total Plate Count and Aerobic Count?

What is the Difference between Total Plate Count and Aerobic Count?

Various tests are used to measure the organoleptic changes seen in various food items over time, in the presence of given environmental conditions. TPC (Total Plate Count) and Aerobic Count are among the main tests conducted in controlled environments in a bid to ascertain the quality and safety of various food items. The results obtained from these tests can be used to determine the quality and expected shelf life of the products under consideration. As a food producer or manufacturer, it is important to have an idea of what these terms mean and the difference between total plate count and aerobic count.

Total Plate Count
To understand the difference between total plate count and aerobic count, we will have to first begin by defining each term. Total Plate Count is used as a general term referring to the total bacteria load that is found in a plate count of agar incubated in specified conditions. It is worth noting that this test may be conducted in an aerobic or anaerobic environment and therefore identifies colonies that grew on the plate depending on the conditions used. Other names used to refer to this test include Aerobic Plate Count, Heterotrophic Colony Count, and Heterotrophic Plate Count among others.

Aerobic Count
This term refers to the bacteria colonies growing in a sample that is tested in an aerobic environment. As such, the colonies forming in the agar are described as oxygen loving bacteria groups. From this definition, we can see that the main difference between Total Plate Count and Aerobic Count comes in whether the test was conducted in an aerobic environment or not. Where a Total Plate Count is conducted in an aerobic environment/incubator, the resulting bacteria colony count is equal to the Aerobic Count. In such circumstances, both terms would be referring to the same bacteria colony count.

Applications
Now that you understand the difference between Total Plate Count and Aerobic Count, we can look at some of their main applications. These tests are used to verify the quality of food products in different ways. In some cases, the tests can be used to measure the shelf life of the food items under consideration. In this case, the tests measure the increase of bacteria colonies which would indicate impending organoleptic changes. On the other hand, the tests can be used to measure the quality of foods that are required to undergo fermentation. These include yogurt and cheese. 

It is important to note that although these tests can be used in determining the quality of food by establishing the bacteria load under given circumstances, they should not be considered on their own. For instance, they do not identify toxins and other harmful substances contained in food items. It is recommended that their use be supported by other tests to reliably establish the quality of food. 
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