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30th September 2022  Content supplied by: Microgenetics

Why You Should Second Check EM Plate Counts


Does your facility second check plate counts? For many labs, its resource-intensive nature means it’s often a “nice to do.” But you may struggle to trust your data without it. Here’s why.

Imagine you are in your environmental monitoring lab, reading your plates. You count the number of CFUs, and as far as you can tell, one of your plates is below the limit – but only just.

You record the data, satisfied that though it was close, the limit had not been breached. However, swept up by the work pressures of your lab and relying on your perception of the number of colonies alone, you had miscounted. There has been a limit breach, but it goes undetected.

This is where second checking comes in.
The practice of second checking is not yet universal for a variety of reasons. It can consume a lot of resource – particularly in labs heavily reliant on manual counting. Despite increasing regulatory pressure, it is often not carried out. But can you trust your data without it?

In the scenario above, had the plate been subject to a second check, there would have been a higher probability of the limit breach being identified. Catching the limit breach would have allowed for an investigation into the cause of the breach and ultimately led to a level of confidence that products are safe for the end consumer.

Blind vs open checking
We have now determined why second checking your plates is important, so the next consideration is how this is carried out. Imagine that you did second check the plates.

In one scenario, your second checker is aware of what you counted, so the second check is open. Perhaps they are less experienced than you and feel intimidated if they disagree with what you counted. Like you, they recognise that the count is on the cusp of being acceptable, yet count the CFU that you missed. Despite being aware of the breach, they jot down the same number of colonies as you. Again, the breach is missed.

In a second scenario, the second checking is blind. The second checker has no idea how many CFUs you identified, so are honest in what they record. You can then work together to review the plate or get a third opinion to discuss the discrepancy and determine which recording is correct.

Although open second checks are preferable to not carrying out second checks at all, you can see how the second scenario of blind second checks has less bias than the first.

How SmartControl can help
If you are reading this thinking that you would love to be able to second check plates, but can’t as you lack the resource, then SmartControl can help.

The SmartControl Colony Counter uses Machine Learning to automate the slow and error-prone colony counting process, even for complex plates such as environmental monitoring samples. This can be used for first or second checking, with repeatable and accurate results. 

Another tool to help is SmartControl EM, dedicated environmental monitoring software designed to boost your productivity and help you meet regulation.

SmartControl EM saves you time by reducing your number of transcription stages, making your data easily accessible, and providing easy-to-use yet powerful reporting tools. Therefore, the time you currently spend moving data from paper to your spreadsheet or looking for a record so you can carry out investigations could instead be freed up for second checking or innovation.

Learn more about SmartControl EM online or download a brochure. Alternatively, use the Request Information button below to contact the supplier.


    

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Date Published: 30th September 2022

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