By Gloryann Mejias-Sarceno
Results in Biofilm
What exactly is a biofilm and how does it adhere to food processing equip- ment? Why is it important to establish
corrective actions that will eradicate
them and prevent them from reoccur-
ring? How can you prevent positive fin-
ished product microbial results and reduce the amount of product
When food processing equipment
can’t be easily cleaned due to its design
and food particles are not removed,
these food particles assist in the formation of biofilms by providing a layer
that not only provides the biofilm with
nutrients but with a surface to which it
can easily adhere.
Environmental conditions in food
production areas also play a role in
biofilm formation. Food production environments provide all the elements that
microorganisms need in which to grow:
food, acidity, temperature, moisture,
oxygen and time. A plant sanitation program must be designed and implemented to ensure the creation of a
hygienic environment that supports the
production of food products where food
safety and quality are not compromised.
Sanitary preventive maintenance, equipment monitoring and timely repairs are
essential to assist in the ability to perform adequate sanitation. Equipment
maintenance is important after removing biofilms because biofilms can also
deteriorate surfaces, making them more
vulnerable to corrosion.
that needs to be put on hold for further testing and disposition?
These are some of the questions that many sanitarians and produc-
tion managers ask whenever there is an indication that the sanitation
program is not effective in preventing product contamination.
Biofilms are bacterial films consisting of a mixture of different microorganisms,
along with product residues and polysaccharides excreted by the microorganisms
that help them to attach to surfaces. You can say that these films become a living
community with a life of its own and the means to exist and perpetuate if allowed
to do so. Wherever there are the right conditions for biofilms, they will form and
establish themselves. Biofilms in food production environments are an indication
that sanitation programs are inadequate and can become the potential root cause
for reduction of shelf life and pathogenic contamination of food products.
Conditions of Food Processing Equipment
Biofilms can establish themselves on almost any surface in the food production
environment. Some solid surfaces that can harbor microorganisms include stainless
steel, aluminum, rubber, Teflon® and other nylon materials, which exist in almost
every food production plant. It is absolutely critical that surfaces are properly maintained. Surfaces that are scratched, pitted, corroded or cracked are difficult to clean
and therefore provide the environment needed for biofilms to establish themselves.
Biofilm Formation Steps
All microorganisms need a source of
nutrients. Food particles, especially proteins, provide the conditions for the first
step of biofilm formation to take place.
Organic and inorganic particles from
the production process that sit on equipment for prolonged periods will act as
the base to which microorganisms can
attach. Microorganisms can come from
almost everywhere, including soil, raw
ingredients, water, air, etc. If they are
present in the production environment,
they can easily adhere to food sources
on production equipment surfaces.
Long production schedules provide the
times necessary for the microorganisms
to multiply and become firmly attached.
Extended schedules can also cut into the
necessary sanitation time needed to
eliminate and prevent biofilms from becoming established. During the formation of the conditioning layer, the
attraction forces of food particles and