If you are in the food manufacturing business, you will have heard of the term Biofilm. In this blog, we will explain what biofilm is, how biofilm is formed, why biofilm is a problem, and how to prevent and maintain a biofilm-free process.
Extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) or; ‘Bioﬁlms are composed of microorganisms attached to surfaces and encased in a hydrated polymeric matrix containing polysaccharides, proteins, and nucleic acids’ (Karin Sauer 2007). The first stage of the biofilm is the attachment of the microorganism followed by maturation and finally dispersion.
Biofilms will attach to almost any surface be it stainless steel or metal, ceramic, mineral, and polymer.
Biofilm is generally invisible to the naked eye, but the sure signs of it can be seen by checking for unclean food residues on equipment, in floor areas and dead legs in pipework.
Biofilm in Food Manufacturing
Of particular importance to the food industry is that some biofilm-forming species in food factory environments are human pathogens. These pathogens are able to develop biofilm structures by attaching to almost any surface common in the food industry, such as stainless steel, polyethylene, wood, glass, polymer, and rubber.
Listeria can attach itself and form a biofilm in 20 minutes under the right conditions. Some of the other organisms that are known to form biofilms are Enterobacter, Pseudomonas, Bacillus cereus, E.coli, staph aureus, and shigella.
Good up-front validation of cleaning systems is key to preventing Biofilm from forming and growing, as well as ongoing verification of your systems to show that they are functioning correctly.
The most likely microorganisms to produce a biofilm are prokaryotic which are Bacteria and Archaea, also eukaryotic organisms which are algae and fungi. Biofilms can readily be replenished even when cleaned, so the ongoing effectiveness of cleaning is your number one weapon. To remove biofilms, high heat and shock washing can help. Physically scrubbing and cleaning by hand, while hard work is also very effective.
Further Research and Support
A collaboration between scientists at the Max Plank Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany and Princeton University mapped the structure of Vibrio cholerae biofilm and it shows quite a uniform pattern. New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industry has a number of studies on its website; this one on NON-TYPHOIDAL SALMONELLAE has some good information. Biofilms are also present in the seafood industry as also seen here on the MPI website
Dairy Food Safe Victoria (DFSV) in Australia has plenty of information on biofilms on its website. The Australian meat industry is equally susceptible to this type of contamination. The CSIRO is also undertaking research in the food safety area.
So, as you can see biofilm affects many types of food manufacturing industries. If you find yourself having intermittent, ongoing, or persistent microbiological issues in your products, it is probably a biofilm that is continually receding your plant.
Produco Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance Specialists can provide an overall assessment, identify root causes, and work to fix your systems to help create a safer food product for your brand reputation and your consumers.