Biofilms form the largest activity center on the planet. Contamination, fouling and energy loss from biofilms is costing the food industry billions in world GDP, while claiming the lives of millions worldwide.
Recently we had the pleasure of attending the Barcelona Biofilm Summit 2020 held online. It was extremely interesting and informative, and for those who missed it, here are some highlights from the first two speakers. We will also share the link for the full summit further into our article.
The first speaker is Dr. Bill Keevil from the University of South Hampton. He spoke about the current concerns the food industry has when it comes to hygiene and food safety in the production, processing and distribution of foodstuffs. We have extracted a few points from his talk that we found particularly interesting, but do also listen to his full talk here.
Firstly, he highlights the fact that the food industry must take measures to ensure that the supply, handling and processing of raw materials and foodstuffs meet hygiene criteria. This must be part of their procedures based on HACCP principles together with good hygiene practice.
And, secondly, he states that the food industry is responsible for the safety of their products from the farm to the table. This applies throughout the shelf-life of the product under reasonable conditions of distribution, storage and use.
These were some of the concerns, raised by various food companies, taken from the NBIC survey:
- Currently we don’t know where we have biofilms. We have assumptions but no definitive proof. Normal methods of swabbing post hygiene are probably not detecting organisms embedded within a biofilm.
- In factories we have fixed pieces of equipment with moving parts plus we have pieces of equipment (e.g. chains and conveyor belts) which can be a mile long and travel through the plant.
- It could be the food or product as the vector for moving the contamination from one biofilm hot-spot to another within the factory.
- Or, it could be the equipment itself that is the vector.
- On farms there are similar problems with drinking lines and general environment that houses animals.
- Companies assume that their current hygiene regimes and monitoring of cleanliness via swabbing is sufficient to remove any residual microbial contamination.
- Everyone agrees that we need better detection of biofilms. This will allow better management and development of strategies to control biofilms.
So, what do biofilms look like?
Dr Keevil explains it brilliantly in his talk where he describes a specimen of biofilm taken from a factory and viewed through his co-invention EDIC – an advanced biofilm microscope.
The reality is you generally cannot see biofilm with the naked eye. However, when viewed through his microscope, biofilms appear to be open architectural structures of varying colour (which has to do with different microbial species). The biofilm has a thin layer of slow growing cells, rising from there are towers of microcolonies of different bacterial species living together. This biofilm provides a reservoir of protection from biocide treatments. It also provides a reservoir for pathogens which can survive in biofilms and remain protected.
Is there a way we can easily find biofilms?
A Spanish company, Itram, has developed a product called BioFinder – a biofilm detection system. It works on the idea that bacteria produce catalase, and when you add the peroxide-based BioFinder solution the catalase releases oxygen. The liquid starts to bubble and appears as a foamy layer making the invisible biofilm visible.
Biofilm cleaning for removal
The second speaker, Rob Limburn from Camden BRI, talks about species diversity in biofilms and cleaning for removal. In this talk he covers the research and results using samples found with BioFinder, and taken from a variety of working food factories. His talk begins 40min into this video.
On a worst-case sample of densely packed, established biofilms they ran comparisons using Peracetic acid (PAA), Enzymes, and a combination of Enzymes with PAA to see which worked best. It was pretty conclusive that using Enzymes in combination with PAA was the most effective. This combo not only kills the biofilm but removes it too, resulting in an increased level of inactivation of the biofilm.
The enzyme they used was none other than our EnzyJet Plus and BioJet.