A3 vs. ATP hygiene monitoring – what’s the difference?

Klipspringer have been supplying the food and beverage industry for over 20 years, particularly in the areas of hygiene, food safety and audit compliance. As a BRCGS partner organisation, we work with over 4,000 sites spanning food and beverage production, food retail, hospitality and pharmaceutical. In this article, we look at the basics of hygiene monitoring, including why it is important and how to approach it.

Key Topics Covered:

  • What is hygiene monitoring?
  • ATP hygiene monitoring
  • Limitations with ATP testing
  • What is A3 and how is it different?
  • What is A3 and how is it different?

Limitations with ATP testing 

As we’ve said, ATP is by the far the most widely used hygiene test and is perfect for applications dealing with very stable processes. However, a key point to remember is that it relies on measuring just one molecule, ATP. 

ATP is an unstable molecule which decomposes in certain processes, such as cooking and fermentation. Through these processes, the molecules are participating in biological reactions and losing their energy, resulting in the ATP count decreasing and instead forming ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and AMP (adenosine monophosphate). 


This means that, although an ATP test may not detect high levels of organic residue, it is often still there but just in a different form. The dangerous consequence of this for food safety is that a surface appears ‘clean’ but in fact is still contaminated and requires further cleaning. 

Additionally, ATP swabbing alone is not an effective method for allergen testing. Allergens such as milk, nuts, soy and milk are high in proteins and there is limited correlation between protein and ATP test results, making it a questionable approach to allergen management.

Comparing ATP with A3

With different hygiene monitoring systems using different methods to measure cleanliness, the video shows the difference in sensitivity using the A3 technology compared to a hygiene monitoring system that only measures ATP. 

Detection of foods and beverages using the A3 System and three commercially available ATP monitoring tests from two leading companies.



Graph 1


Graph 2
Graph 1 - ATP reading below the action level before sanitation is effective.
Graph 2 - Example showing how heat drastically reduces the amount of detectable ATP, while A3 readings will remain constant.

Getting Started
Hygiene monitoring is a crucially-important process which must be carried out carefully and results documented for audit purposes. As per the BRCGS Food Standard V8, sites must decide what levels of cleaning performance is and isn’t acceptable, as well as defining corrective action(s) that must be taken when results are higher than they should be (see BRCGS Global Standard for Food Safety, Issue 8, Clause 4.11.3). 

As a BRCGS partner organisation, food safety and hygiene are at the core of Klipspringer’s customer partnerships and our technical team are on hand to assist with hygiene monitoring applications across the industry. To discuss your challenges, testing requirements or investigate using the A3 System from Klipspringer, contact the Klipspringer team on 01473 461800. Alternatively, click here to learn more about the system or get in touch.