Aerobic Colony Count (ACC) – Swab

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

Sanitation / Routine1



Environmental swab

Submission and Collection Notes


Swab samples submitted for sanitation will only be tested for aerobic colony count. Check “Routine” on the requisition. The laboratory should be contacted prior to submission of samples.

Timing of Specimen Collection

Samples must be analyzed within 24 hours of collection.

Special Instructions

For sampling, follow the instructions found in Public Health Inspector’s Guide to Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Testing.

Shipping Instructions:

  • Ship all foods in containers with hard walls and lids secured in the closed position. 
  • Shipping containers must be labelled with the submitting organization, unique identifier and contents e.g. FOOD SAMPLES on the outside of the container. 
  • DO NOT SHIP WITH CLINICAL SPECIMENS.  Shipping containers used for food samples should be dedicated to food samples and not be used for other types of environmental samples. 
  • Ship dry foods and other shelf stable foods at ambient temperature in a closed container. 
  • Ship frozen foods in an insulated container with sufficient ice packs to maintain the frozen state. 
  • Ship perishable foods in an insulated container with sufficient cold packs to maintain a temperature as close to 4°C as possible. If ice is used, contain the ice in a manner that does not allow water contact with the samples.
  • Submit all food samples to the laboratory as soon as possible.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

The aerobic colony count test is performed Monday to Friday.

Turnaround time is 2 days.


Results are reported to the submitting health unit as indicated on the requisition, when all analyses are completed.

Environmental samples that show the presence of bacteria capable of causing illness are reported to the Medical Officer of Health as per the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Test Methods

Aerobic colony count is determined by pour plate culture technique. (American Public Health Association, Standard Method for the Examination of Dairy Products, Chapter 17)


Analysis is performed at the request of the Board of Health as per R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 562, s. 80 “The standard plate count from a multi-service article shall not exceed 100 bacterial colonies after cleaning and sanitizing and prior to re-use when tested by an official method in accordance with the standard plate test, utilizing the swab technique.”

Additional Information

For outbreaks, contact your local Health Unit, your local Public Health Laboratory or the Public Health Ontario, Public Health Laboratory Customer Service at416-235-6556 or1-877-604-4567.

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Laboratory Services

Updated 4 Jan 2019