Anyone working in the food processing industry will know how a biofilm left undetected and untreated can cause havoc.
Outbreaks of large scale contamination start with biofilm-forming bacteria. Listeria are amongst the most enthusiastic of these biofilm formers. Listeria monocytogenes, is a foodborne pathogen responsible for the Listeriosis illness. It is able to rapidly adhere to stainless steel surfaces and reach the mature, irreversible stages within hours. As a source of contamination this presents a serious concern for food safety.
What makes biofilms difficult to detect, especially in their early and less resistant phase, is that they are usually invisible. Under the radar they grow and spread through the factory, ultimately unleashing their destructive force and contaminating the end products. At this stage they are extremely difficult to eliminate and have probably taken hold in other parts of the factory.
Rapid surface adhesion capacity, combined with biotransfer potential throughout the stages of biofilm formation, make L. monocytogenes a potential risk to the food industry. Once present in the raw material, L. monocytogenes will adhere rapidly to the surface of stainless steel equipment and utensils, being able to multiply, forming mature biofilms quickly. Biotransfer potential combined with survival and multiplication capacity in different substrates will cause this bacterium to rapidly reach infecting doses.
Above is an excerpt from Biofilm formation by Listeria monocytogenes on stainless steel surface and biotransfer potential.
This in-depth scientific paper goes into more detail about this food-borne pathogen that is able to persist in the food industry. Here’s an excerpt from A Look inside the Listeria monocytogenes Biofilms Extracellular Matrix:
L. monocytogenes is an important foodborne pathogen thanks to its ability to persist in the food industry by the formation of biofilms. Several efforts have been made in order to better understand L. monocytogenes biofilm composition. The extracellular matrix is the major component of the biofilms and the most difficult to study due to the presence of a large range of biopolymers that are difficult to analyze. For this reason, it has also been called “the dark matter of biofilm”.
It is imperative to add biofilm management strategies if you want to make significant strides towards eliminating and preventing Listeria.
Prevention is always better than cure when maintaining a zero tolerance approach
Ideally you don’t ever want bacteria to anchor long enough to form a biofilm. This is why adding the right enzymes into your regular cleaning protocol should be part of your zero tolerance approach.