Biofilms are invisible to the naked eye and pose a serious concern in food production facilities.
Cleaning and sanitizing regimes that incorporate steps to identify biofilms result in a cleaner, safer processing environment and a safer product that has a longer shelf-life. Understanding how biofilms form, as well as how to detect, control and remove them from the food contact surfaces in the production plant, are all critical to a successful sanitation program.
Surfaces in food production facilities, such as stainless steel, aluminum, glass, nylon materials, Teflon seals, can harbor biofilms. Biofilm formation has been associated with environmental surfaces, such as floors, walls, pipes and drains. Environmental surfaces have led to cross-contamination via air, personnel or cleaning. Biofilms also are found on food contact surfaces, such as gaskets, conveyer belts, pasteurizers, and equipment containing crevices or dead spaces. These areas often are hard to reach during cleaning and sanitation and thus optimal conditions for the formation and development of biofilms are established.
Biofilm detection can be approached in many ways, the worst being in an emergency intervention, in case of contamination. The optimal practice is making biofilm detection a priority to maintaining a high level of food safety. This can be achieved by integrating a biofilm detector into a quality assurance program to monitor the presence or absence of biofilms in a food production facility. Alternatives include:
- As a Validation Tool – to confirm the existing sanitation program is able to remove biological hazards from all surfaces
- When Dismantling a Machine – spray on parts to confirm cleanliness
- When Purchasing a Used Piece of Equipment – spray on strategic areas to avoid cross contamination
- Under the Legs of Tables – these are often overlooked in the cleaning process
- As a Complement to ATP – ATP confirms cleanliness and biofilm detection confirms the presence of biofilm
- For Random Tests – for example 1 per month:
- As a Control Tool for areas that are difficult to clean
- As a Training Tool – to show how to clean correctly
- As a Tool to determine acceptable levels of cleaning and cleaning performance
- In Tight Spaces and other areas that are difficult to swab
The best defense against biofilms in a food production facility is a good offense developed as part of the sanitation program. Since some bacteria within a biofilm may be pathogenic, strategies to detect the formation of a biofilm on food contact surfaces are of high priority. Cleaning and sanitizing regimes that incorporate steps to identify biofilms will result in a more sanitary processing environment and a safer product that has a longer shelf-life.