Results of two international collaborative studies on the MPN technique for determination of coliforms in foods are reported. Three methods involving use of different presumptive and confirmatory media were compared. Results of one collaborative study conducted among 15 laboratories using eight different types of inoculated foods showed differences among the laboratories as great as 3.3 log units. The greatest difference between confirmatory tests using different media was 0.5 log units. Results of the other collaborative study conducted among five laboratories using three types of naturally contaminated foods showed differences among the laboratories as great as 1.4 log units. The greatest difference between tests using different media was 0.2 log unit. Both studies showed that the 95% confidence limit for a single value reported by a given laboratory was ± 1 log unit or ± 0.45 log unit for a mean of five values. The second study showed that a major source of variation within laboratories was between replicate aliquots. The findings are discussed in terms of their significance with respect to the monitoring of microbiological specifications for food.

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Author notes

1International Commission on Microbiological Specifications for Foods (ICMSF) of the International Association of Microbiological Associations.

2Silliker Laboratories.

3The Pillsbury Company.