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Lab Analyses

Microbiological Analytical Group
3209 Frederic Street
Pascagoula, MS 39567
(228) 769-8964

NSIL Tested Contaminants

Aerobic Plate Count (APC)

The Aerobic Plate Count (APC) indicates the level of microorganisms in a product and can sometimes be used to indicate the quality and spoilage level of the product. Obtaining an estimate of the number of microorganisms in a food product will aid in evaluating sanitary practices during processing and handling, as well as determining potential sources of contamination.

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The coliform bacteria are found naturally in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. They can be of fecal or non-fecal origin and may also be found in soil, on plant material, and on many types of food materials and surfaces. The presence of coliform bacteria in food may indicate fecal contamination, presence of potential pathogens, food spoilage, and unsanitary food processing conditions.

All coliform bacteria ferment lactose with the production of acid and gas. Coliform bacteria of fecal origin generally produce gas when incubated at elevated temperatures while non-fecal coliform bacteria do not. Therefore, elevated incubation temperatures are used to detect fecal coliform bacteria.

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Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes can grow in some products at refrigeration temperatures and is responsible for 2,500 foodborne cases of listeriosis annually in the United States. The presence of this organism in a cooked-ready-to eat product indicates a potential health risk due to underprocessing or environmental contamination of the processing facility. In the United States there is a zero tolerance for L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat products that support growth.

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Salmonella is found naturally in animals and the environment and is a potential pathogen to humans. The organism is easily and commonly transmitted from animals to humans, and/or humans to other humans and animals. Various foods have been identified as possible vehicles for transmission of Salmonellae. Most of these foods are of animal origin or contaminated by foods of animal origin. Fish and shellfish may become contaminated by water that contains waste products from humans and animals.

Since cooking of raw seafood will destroy Salmonella, its presence in cooked, ready-to-eat products indicates cross-contamination between cooked and raw products, or contamination originating from food handlers or equipment.

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Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus is an organism commonly found on skin and mucous membranes of humans. For this reason, it may be easily transmitted when handling or processing food if proper handling precautions are not taken. Once the food becomes infected and if environmental and nutritional conditions are conducive to growth, the organism produces an enterotoxin, which, when ingested, causes food borne illness. The isolation of S. aureus from cooked foods generally indicates post processing contamination and a need for improved handling and processing of food products and utensils.

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Vibrio spp.

Vibrio spp, especially V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus, are commonly present in the warm waters from which seafood is harvested. A number of food borne illnesses from the consumption of seafood are attributed to these organisms each year. Most Vibrios are sensitive to heat and should be destroyed by proper cooking. Illnesses usually result from consumption of raw or undercooked seafood or seafood that has been re-contaminated after cooking.

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