Surfaces within the food processing and production facilities that come into contact with food products during production, processing, and packaging are referred to as “Food Contact Surfaces”. Usually, these surfaces are composed of either stainless steel or a type of plastic material.
Food contact surfaces are of particular significance as they have the potential to become a source of contamination. The primary measure for day-to-day control is sanitation, which involves cleaning and disinfection. When undertaken correctly, it can significantly reduce the risk of microbial contamination within the production facility.
Although a microbial surface may not be a source of contamination after sanitation, food residues on that surface during production can provide the opportunity for microbial growth, which could then result in recontamination for the product.
With growing demands on production and significant time constraints on producers to keep lines running as long as possible, producers are seeking new technologies that will detect microbial contaminants faster and with more accuracy than typical ATP swab solutions. This could potentially lead to the product being recontaminated.
Biofilms In The Food Industry
One mistake many food production companies make is assuming if a “Food Contact Surface” is visibly clean, it is also sanitary clean, this unfortunately is not the case. Some contaminants such as Salmonella and E. coli are resistant to soaps and detergents. Consequently, the threat of bacterial contamination has not been fully addressed regardless of how meticulously a surface is cleaned.
Typically, an ATP swab is used to test for the presence of adenosine triphosphate on a surface that is assumed to be visibly clean, and as such is used to measure the cleanliness levels of a facility. The ATP test is a reliable tool that can be used to establish, track, and uphold cleaning standards in a facility. The detection of ATP on a surface suggests inadequate cleaning and the existence of contaminants such as food residue, allergens, or bacteria. This, in turn, implies that the surface may serve as a breeding ground for bacteria.
However, the ATP swab is limited as it can only provide analysis on a very small area of the Food Contact Surface. This is a particular issue for larger production facilities or those with limited time for production changeover, as this method relies on knowing exactly where to take a swab from, as no biofilm growth areas are evident with the naked eye…… or are they?
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Detection Of Biofilms
Currently, few methods exist for detecting biofilms on surfaces of food and beverage processing plants, the most widely used, as discussed, is ATP swabbing.
Now, for the first-time quality personnel can instantaneously detect clusters of contamination on Food Contact Surfaces and target to 100% accuracy where the ATP swab is to be administered.
The BioDtex UV (Ultraviolet) lamp works in conjunction with ATP, or independently as a stand-alone unit to detect contaminants on a surface which are invisible to the human eye. BioDtex utilises engineered UV-A light technology to bounce UV light off all types of work surfaces to expose harmful contaminants such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, Pseudomonads, and Yeast.
The UV-A frequency used by BioDtex works on the upper fringe of the UV spectrum and allows for the light to target key protein cells that grow on bacteria, yeast, and moulds. This light is bounced off this protein and reflected to highlight the area of surface contamination to the user.
Biofilms in the food industry are a pertinent issue, with material and medical repercussions. The food and beverage industry is now compelled to resort to sophisticated techniques to prevent and eradicate biofilm growth to ensure the safety and hygiene of the plant. Companies such as Bioscan can assist the food industry with their top-notch and highly efficient biofilm detection technology “BioDtex”.
Further Read: Detection of Biofilms In Pharmaceutical Water System