Friday, May 17, 2013


Man has been striving ever since his advent on this planet to keep the harmful microorganisms at bay and this endeavor is still continuing even to day. An array of technology to destroy pathogenic microorganisms is available for the industry that has been able to ensure safety of foods manufacture by them to a reaosnable extent. Traditional technologies like salt steeping, sugar infusion, sun drying, fermentation etc are supplemented by modern ones involving high temperature treatment, water removal at controlled temperatures, low and very low temperature preservation, high pressure processing, aseptic packing, vacuum packing etc. Still there is nothing absolutely safe in the light of continuous modification in the behavior of microbes to overcome all the hurdles created by man. Latest finding that bacteria  like Listeria and others can form highly impenetrable biofilms within which they survive under severely adverse environmental conditions is startling to say the least. Here is a commentary on this new phenomenon which will keep the industry on its toes when it comes to ensuring food safety.

"The slimy film that forms in damp areas, typically around drains and in trunk lines, is known as biofilm. Harboring pathogens such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli, biofilm creates a protective environment for illness-causing microorganisms to thrive.Eliminating biofilm and the pathogens it breeds has proven to be difficult for the food processing and retail sanitation industry. It tends to persist in damp areas and is resistant to traditional cleaners and sanitizers. Typical drain cleaners such as enzymatic cleaners, drain openers, and hard surface sanitizers don't have EPA approval to remove biofilm and are ineffective against the pathogens found in it." 

If claims by some of the manufacturers of sanitation aids are to be believed, specially formulated preparations are required which can only penetrate biofilms and destroy the bacteria residing within. As most of these products are patented and branded, very little is known regarding the scientific basis of such claims. Most difficult task in a food processing facility is to access remote nooks and crevices where there may be dampness, ideal for harboring biofilm clusters and which can infect the food during contact with the surface when processing is going on. Still efficient preparations containing active chlorine does a decent job with minimum risk of contamination. If biofilms pose real danger to the food processing sector as being claimed, it is time that safety authorities revisit the range of sanitizing agents approved and include more efficient ones for tackling dangers posed by the biofilms of pathogenic bacteria.    


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