Membrane Filtration Systems

Membrane filtration has long been the method of choice for quantitative tests in water microbiology (1,2). Principally, this has been due to the ability to concentrate and detect low levels of indicator microorganisms by filtering large volumes of water. For this same reason, membrane filtration has been used to enumerate indicator organisms in beverages, including beer and wine. However, application of this tool in the beverage industry has been limited to those beverages that are low in particulate matter and that can easily pass through a membrane filter.

These same restrictions deterred food microbiologists from using membrane filtration as an analytical tool for many years. Early attempts to render food samples filterable met with limited success (3,4). In addition, the relatively narrow counting range of the standard 47-mm-diameter membrane filter (5) required a large number of sample dilutions to be filtered to ensure at least one countable filter. Despite these limitations, three very different approaches—membrane spread, direct epifluorescence, and hydrophobic grid membrane filter—have been used to adapt membrane filter techniques to food microbiology.

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