10 biofilm hot spots in meat processing environments
Biofilms are comprised of microorganisms embedded in a self-produced matrix that normally adhere to a surface. In the food processing environment, they can be the cause of food spoilage or the transmission of foodborne pathogens. A new study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology has found biofilms on 9.3% sites including food and non-food contact surfaces.
In the study paper, titled Identification of biofilm hotspots in a meat processing environment: Detection of spoilage bacteria in multi-species biofilms, the authors assess the presence of biofilms within a meat processing environment, processing pork, poultry and beef, by the detection of microorganisms and at least two biofilm matrix components. Sampling included 47 food contact surfaces and 61 non-food contact surfaces from 11 different rooms (filling, cutting, weighing, smokehouse, slicing, packaging area, tumbling, curing, delivery, ham and cooking rooms) within an Austrian meat processing plant, either during operation or after cleaning and disinfection.
The 108 samples were analysed for the presence of microorganisms by cultivation and targeted quantitative real-time analysis.
10 biofilm hotspots identified
Ten biofilm hotspots were identified in the study, seven of which were sampled during operation and three after cleaning and disinfection.
Five biofilms were detected on food contact surfaces (cutters and associated equipment and a screw conveyor) and five on non-food contact surfaces (drains and water hoses), resulting in 9.3% of the sites being classified as biofilm positive.
The identification of biofilms in water hoses and associated parts highlights the need of a frequent monitoring at these sites.
Overall, the lowest levels of microbial presence were detectable in the slicing room and in the packaging areas.
The work in the study is designed to ultimately determine the presence of multi-species biofilms within the meat processing environment, thereby identifying various sources of potential contamination. The knowledge gained about the presence and composition of biofilms (ie, chemical and microbiological) is designed to help prevent and reduce biofilm formation within food processing environments.
The full study is available online: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2020.108668.
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