How One Lab is Optimizing Its Resources

January 23, 2023

As a result of the pandemic, labor challenges have been seen across many industries. During this time, food processors had to balance customer needs, with plant production capabilities based on staffing availability. Today, some food safety testing labs continue to struggle to restaff labs while testing demands have continued to rise as food processors continue to meet their production goals in plants. The global food company Sigma Alimentos is among many food manufacturing labs that have faced increases in testing demands. With operations in 18 countries, Sigma Alimentos understands the complexities and challenges of meeting lab productivity targets amid increased testing demands.

The Neogen® Petrifilm® Plate Reader Advanced, launched in 2021, is an enhancement of previous technology that allows food safety professionals to enumerate microorganisms quickly with colony counting that is consistent with a trained microbiologist. Petrifilm Plates are inserted into the reader, which automatically delivers a high-resolution image and plate information on a USB-connected computer in six seconds or less, up to 900 plates per hour. By reducing the time to count, the plate reader assists laboratories in improving productivity by automatically counting, recording, and reporting results with up to 94%-time reduced[1].

Neogen recently checked in with Lab Manager Raul Montesinos from Sigma Alimentos on his experience using the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced to help overcome challenges in his lab.

Since you have added the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced to your lab, have you noticed any improved efficiency?

Raul Montesinos: The Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced assists in optimizing time in the laboratory, reducing the time of reading plates, as well as reporting the results. This helps us get more testing done in less time. Previously we were manually reading, so there is a considerable difference that provides us with additional time for other activities.

One of the most important things that the reader brought, was helping to alleviate ambiguity especially in more complex plates such as the Petrifilm Staph Express Count Plate (STX). There are people who struggle to see colors correctly, as in my case. By using the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced, identifying colony colors during the reading process becomes more standardized, which helps decision-making and in turn increases efficiency.

During a typical week in your lab, how many Petrifilm Plates are counted by the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced?

RM: On average, each week we are reading between 150 to 200 aerobic plates, between 80 to 120 of total coliforms and E. coli, as well as about 50 of Enterobacteriaceae.

We sometimes receive complex samples from the research laboratory with non-routine food samples and various dilutions.

How much of a resource and time investment was it before you started using the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced?

RM: Previously, the team responsible for the plate count consisted of two, sometimes three people. The average time spent reading plates was between two to three hours per person per week.

With the introduction of the plate reader, the time to count was reduced to half, now an hour per week.

Has the time saved allowed you to do other things that you didn’t do before?

RM: We have increased the laboratory analysis capacity by 10% since the reduction of time and space from the Petrifilm Plates. By optimizing the reading time, we can process more samples, which makes the process more versatile, and my team can dedicate more to the sampling process. Before we used the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced, we had a daily capacity of 10 samples. Now with the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced, we have improved to 12–13 samples per day.

With the use of Petrifilm Plates have you been able to identify any savings in energy, water, or waste reduction?

RM: By using Petrifilm Plates, we have a more efficient workspace, and have more refrigerator space. In addition to that, we also use less water for media prep. For example, 100 samples use 25 liters of water, and by using the Petrifilm Plates we have decreased the amount of water used compared to agar.

Would you recommend the device to your colleagues and how would you rate it from 1 to 10?

RM: I recommend the device. I would give it a 10/10. I also have recommended the use of the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced in the rest of Sigma Alimentos plants. Most of the plants analyze the indicators that the device is compatible with; therefore, it would be a perfect fit. for other plants.

The software is very easy to use, we have not had any problems at all. We are planning to automate other plants’ processes, and the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced is a good fit for that. I would also like to add that for people with visual impairment, for example, I have a certain type of color blindness, it is almost impossible for me to read the Staph plate. I do not distinguish the colors well, but the device is a perfect match to verify that what I am reporting is correct.


The Petrifilm Plates read by the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced can help improve lab productivity as food manufacturers continue to experience increased testing demands. The system features an easy-to-use software program, the Petrifilm Plate Manager, that provides a database to store test results for further analysis. The software allows technicians to view, trend, and track test data on a   customizable dashboard and can create real-time charts that update as new test results are recorded. It also has a feature that allows users to automate the recording and tracking of one's results using customizable worklists. Worklists allow users to track sample information like sample ID, dilution, product specifications and tie the information back to the results as the plates are fed through the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced.

Discover how increased food testing capabilities can allow technicians to sample more so that they can focus on proactive testing to help manage food-borne risk and reduce the probability of product recalls. Find more information about the performance.

If you’re ready to see how the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced can change the efficiency of your lab through automating imaging, interpretation and tracking of results, then be sure to request a demo from one of our representatives.

1. Observed on the Petrifilm Aerobic Count Plate with High Counts.


Category: Food Safety, Customer Testimonials, Dietary Supplements, Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Microbiology