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The Crossroads Charter
School Science Fair

Sterilex recognizes the importance of attracting and cultivating students in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) programs. To succeed in these fields, students must be prepared with the appropriate skills. More importantly, students must be captivated by math and science. The best way to achieve this is by engaging students early in their school years and keeping them engaged throughout their education. Such students will be the innovative scientists of the future for academia and businesses like Sterilex.

As part of addressing this vision, Sterilex was pleased to partner with the Crossroads’ first-ever Science Fair where eighth grade students presented projects that incorporated the skills they learned throughout their 3 years at Crossroads. Completion of a Science Fair project was an eighth grade graduation requirement.

As a prelude to the Science Fair and to help motivate the students, the Sterilex R&D team conducted demonstrations of science experiments for both 8th grade classes about a month before the Science Fair. The R&D team set up 5 different chemistry stations and taught the kids the science behind each of the experiments. It was clear that the students were fascinated by the experiments and each of the R&D mentors related exceptionally well with all the kids.

The Sterilex team met the students once again as judges of the Crossroads Science Fair on May 3. The students were required to create either an engineering design or an experiment to present at the fair. The projects were presented on poster boards containing important information about their design, experiment, or model and each student walked the Sterilex judges through their presentation.

Selecting winners of the Science Fair was difficult. All of the students did an awesome job. However, 2 young female students’ projects rose to the top. One project was an experimental study topic and the other an engineering topic.

The experimental study winner evaluated whether men or women have a better memory. The engineering study winner developed prototype devices to help clean up trash in the Chesapeake Bay. Each had well thought out and organized presentations and both were articulate, confident, and enthusiastic about their projects. Sterilex looks forward to the possibility of seeing these young ladies as future scientists/engineers at its company!

Controlling Biofilm in Dry Environments

by Shira Kramer, PhD | Chief Executive Officer, Sterilex

It is now well established that bacteria, including foodborne pathogens, predominantly grow in biofilms, their natural habitat. Biofilms are comprised of dense, complex, multi-species populations of microorganisms that are irreversibly attached to a surface or to each other, and are embedded in a self-produced extracellular polymeric matrix. Within biofilms, bacteria of both the same and different species communicate and interact with each other, exchange genetic material, and are much more resistant to antimicrobials than they would be in a planktonic, or unattached state. Like humans and animals, microorganisms benefit from this community-based lifestyle for growth and survival. In food processing environments, biofilms represent a persistent source of product contamination and cross contamination through detachment or aerosolization of bacterial cells.

A wide range of food products are manufactured in low moisture environments, and these products are susceptible to contamination with biofilms and associated microorganisms. Although it may seem reasonable to assume that microorganisms and biofilms require some moisture for survival, they can, in fact, survive in a desiccated state. Once in this dried state, metabolism is reduced, and the cells and spores persist longer (months to years), and are more difficult to eradicate, than in a high moisture environment. Upon rehydration of low moisture foods or ingredients, conditions are favorable for the growth of the previously dormant microorganisms. The recent outbreaks of STEC 0121 and STEC 026, linked to flour in the US [1], and contamination of dry infant formula with Bacillus cereus and Cronobacter species[2] underscore the risks associated with biofilms in dry or low-moisture processing.

Studies have shown that dry surface biofilms are less susceptible to killing by heat treatment and high hydrostatic pressure than hydrated biofilms[3,4]. Typical cleaning and sanitizing methods, which are wet procedures, are not applicable in these low humidity, dry environments. Thus, steps should be taken to control biofilms and microbiological contamination in ingredients before the dry manufacturing process, which should include proper disinfection and sanitization of environmental surfaces and equipment associated with ingredient manufacturing. Various dry methods for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting do exist, including dry powdered products, quick-drying sanitizers, and physical methods. Another important element in risk management is verification and environmental monitoring, including monitoring for biofilms.

There is much emphasis and activity focused on the development of microbial and biofilm control technologies for dry processing environments. Sterilex offers a variety of products to help dry processing plants with their microbial control efforts. Among these are Sterilex Ultra Step, a dry floor sanitizer that helps minimize the spread of microorganisms. For periodic deep cleaning, Sterilex Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 and Sterilex Ultra Activator Solution provide dry processing plants with a mechanism to remove biofilm* and return plants to a microbial baseline.

*Biofilm label claims are approved for specific applications only. See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.


[1] Crowe SJ, Bottichio L, Shade LN, Whitney BM, Corral N, et al. Shiga Toxin- Producing E. Coli Infections Associated with Flour. N Engl J Med 2017; 377:2036-2043.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases. Page Last Reviewed October 17, 2018.

[3] Beuchat L, Komitopoulou E, Betts R, Beckers H, Bourdichon F, Joosten H, Fanning S, ter Kuile B. Persistence and Survival of Pathogens in Dry Foods and Dry Food Processing Environments. Report of an ILSI Europe Expert Group. November, 2011.

[4] Almatroudi A., Tahir S, Hu H, Chowdhury D, Gosbell IB, Jensen SO, Vickery K. Staphylococcus aureus Dry-Surface Biofilms are More Resistant to Heat Treatment Than Traditional Hydrated Biofilms. J Hosp Inf 2018; 98(2): 161-167.

Poultry Biosecurity Improvements for AI Control

Stop Avian InfluenzaWe are well into the fall season, and after last week’s confirmation of H5N2 Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Minnesota now is a great time to assess and update your biosecurity program. Biosecurity is a series of management practices designed to prevent the introduction and spread of disease pathogens. Each piece of the program is important, and your defense against disease is only as strong as the weakest link.

Are you utilizing an effective entry-way pathogen control system at your Line of Separation? Foot pans containing an EPA registered disinfectant or sanitizer can be extremely effective if managed and monitored correctly. Are you able to verify the concentration of your chemical sanitizer or disinfectant? How frequently does it need to be replaced or replenished? Is it EPA registered and proven to kill the pathogens you are attempting to control? These are important considerations for ensuring each tool you use in your program is having the best impact possible for reducing cross-contamination and spread of disease.

Have you considered water quality and the water delivery system at your facility? Waterlines are an excellent harborage area for disease-causing pathogens. Supplements, water acidifiers, and medications are commonly administered via waterlines and can provide an ideal environment for mold, algae, bacteria and/or biofilm formation. A water testing and treatment program utilized in conjunction with line disinfection or sanitization between flocks can have a major impact on reducing contamination and disease in your facility. Again, utilizing products with EPA approved claims against relevant pathogens and biofilm* will offer the best protection.

Each piece of the program is important, and the success of the program relies on the weakest link. Annual biosecurity program assessment and updating based on new information, industry tools and technology is the best practice for ensuring a safe and sustainable facility, industry and food supply. For more information, visit http://www.poultryimprovement.org/documents/AuditGuidelines-BiosecurityPrinciples.pdf.

*Biofilm label claims approved for specific applications only. See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.

 

Patent Granted for Sterilex Ultra Step

Sterilex Ultra Step Patented

The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Sterilex a patent for its surface treatment product, Sterilex Ultra Step. The patent, originally filled under patent application 20180105773, covers a unique method for surface treatment powder activation.

More About Sterilex Ultra Step
Sterilex Ultra Step is based off of Sterilex’s PerQuat® chemistry and is one of the few EPA-registered solid floor treatment products currently on the market. It is most commonly used for entryway control in heavily trafficked areas, as well as in doorway floor mats. With low moisture activation requirements, Sterilex Ultra Step is an ideal fit for dry processing facilities and other facilities looking to reduce water usage. It is also well suited for biosecurity applications on poultry and swine farms.

Sterilex Ultra Step is EPA approved to eliminate Enterobacter, E. Coli, Listeria, Salmonella enteritidis, Salmonella enterica, and Avian Influenza among other organism when used in compliance with label instructions.

Interpreting an EPA Label: Sanitizer vs Disinfectant

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regulates all antimicrobial product labels and any associated efficacy claims. The language and claims contained on each label must be supported with extensive scientific data that is submitted to EPA in the pesticide registration approval process. These labels govern usage rates, applications and directions for use. End users of chemicals must ensure compliance with the label and should understand the meaning behind differing label claims. This is the first in a series of posts that will look at EPA label language and what it means to the end-user.

Definitions
The words sanitizer and disinfectant are often used interchangeably in the food processing industry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, has distinct definitions for each term.

Sanitizer: a substance, or mixture of substances, that reduces the bacteria population in the inanimate environment by significant numbers, but does not destroy or eliminate all bacteria.

Disinfectant: a substance or mixture of substances, that destroys or irreversibly inactivates bacteria, fungi, and viruses, but not necessarily bacterial spores, in the inanimate environment.

Source: EPA Website, 40 CFR 158.2203

Definitions in Practice
For commercial products, this simply means that disinfectants provide a higher level of demonstrable microbial load reduction than sanitizers. Product performance guidelines are outlined by EPA in Product Performance Test Guidelines OCSPP 810.2300 (sanitization) and OCSPP 810.2200 (disinfection). These guidelines are summarized in Table 1, with minimum surface contact times indicated in parentheses.

  Sanitizer Disinfectant
Microbial Load Reduction:
Non-Food Contact Surfaces
3 log
99.9% (5 min)
6 log
99.9999% (10 min)
Microbial Load Reduction:
Food Contact Surfaces
5 log
99.999% (30 sec)
6 log
99.9999% (10min)
Fungi & Viral Control NO YES

On the Label
In some instances, the same product can be both a sanitizer and a disinfectant when used at different concentrations, or on a different surface, or with longer surface contact time. Sterilex® Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 is an example of this type of product when used with Sterilex® Ultra Activator Solution.

The label for Sterilex Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 (EPA Reg. No. 63761-8, accepted 9/22/16), contains a claim that allows the product to be used as both a rinsed disinfectant on food contact surfaces, and as a non-rinsed surface sanitizer on non-food contact surfaces. This section of the label is highlighted below.

DISINFECTION AND NON-FOOD CONTACT SURFACE SANITIZATION OF FOOD PROCESSING EQUIPMENT AND HARD SURFACES IN FOOD PROCESSING FACILITIES: Apply Sterilex Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 and Sterilex Ultra Activator Solution as a disinfectant, per General One Step Disinfection and Cleaning Directions, or as a sanitizer, per General Sanitization Directions. Use product within 8 hours of mixing Sterilex Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 and Sterilex Ultra Activator Solution.

“Disinfection” and “non-food contact surface sanitization” are separate statements and claims, an important differentiation. Per Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements, a no-rinse sanitizer must be used on food contact surfaces as the final step prior to production. For this reason, Sterilex specifically differentiates between disinfection claims (followed by a rinse) on food contact surfaces, and non-rinsed surface sanitization claims for non-food contact surfaces.

Therefore, on food contact surfaces, this product has demonstrated an ability to kill ≥ 6 logs of the organisms on its label on food contact surfaces, whereas products marketed as sanitizers on food contact surfaces have demonstrated an ability to kill at least 5 logs of the organisms on their label on food contact surfaces.
Please see the product label for complete directions for use.

Conclusion
Both EPA registered sanitizers and disinfectants can effectively reduce or remove bacterial load from surfaces in food processing facilities. However, when used in accordance with the label, disinfectants offer processing facilities a more complete inactivation/removal of microbial load than sanitizers.

See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.

Sterilex Announces New President

Alex Josowitz, President of Sterilex

On July 5th Sterilex announced the promotion of Alex Josowitz to the position of President. As President, Alex will have responsibility for the organization’s operational functions and will play a key role in the company’s strategic direction.

“I am excited and honored to take on this new role and look forward to working with our talented and growing team to continue to drive innovation, sustain growth and develop value-added products for our customers,” said Josowitz.

Alex has worked at Sterilex for 12 years, taking on a variety of sales, marketing and operational leadership roles. Most recently, Alex served as Executive Vice President, Business Development and Operations where he displayed strong sales and operational leadership and oversaw a period of rapid growth, highlighted by the expansion of Sterilex’s brand and portfolio of award-winning products for microbial control and detection.

Concurrent to Alex’s appointment, Dr. Shira Kramer, Sterilex’s founder, will remain as CEO and Chairwoman. As founder and past President, Shira led the business and was instrumental in strategic leadership, obtaining key regulatory claims, new product innovation, and commercialization. In addition, she led the sustained growth of many key markets and has played an important role in establishing the brand as it is today.

“Alex’s efforts can be directly seen in the results,” said Dr. Kramer. “With his leadership, ability to deliver results and strategic thinking, Alex is the ideal candidate to execute Sterilex’s strategic key business initiatives and drive sustainable growth,” Dr. Kramer stated.

The Importance of Periodic Equipment Cleaning

Periodic Equipment Cleaning ImageAlthough sanitation occurs on a regular basis, that alone may not be enough for difficult to disassemble or difficult to clean equipment and surfaces. Periodic, intensified cleaning can be used to address these challenges without adding steps to the daily sanitation program. Sterilex delivers award-winning EPA registered products and onsite industry expertise to help build and enhance food safety and sanitation programs. To learn more about the importance of periodic equipment cleaning, read this informative article from Food Safety Magazine, or contact your Sterilex representative about how Sterilex products can be integrated into periodic cleaning programs.

Frozen doesn’t mean Listeria – Free

The food industry has been increasingly focused on a risk-based approach to food safety. Control of Listeria specifically, is always at the top of every list, as it poses the largest threat. “The pathogen’s recent influx in a variety of fresh, frozen and processed foods is reinforcing the importance of understanding how contamination occurs in processing plants.” (Mackin, 2018).

While most frozen foods are meant to be cooked, it is not uncommon for the average consumer to use frozen fruit and vegetable products in cold salads, and other prepared foods consumed without cooking first. Benjamin Chapman, a food-safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University noted, “Though eating raw, frozen vegetables may sound unusual, frozen kale, for example, is increasingly being used in smoothies. And it’s not uncommon for pediatricians to recommend letting young children chew and suck on frozen veggies while teething.” (quoted in Miller, 2016). Chapman went on to clarify that although freezing may stop Listeria growth, it doesn’t necessarily kill the organism (Miller, 2016).

As frozen food processors evaluate risk, and implement changes, the freezers themselves present unique challenges:

  • Design- there are many areas of freezers that are difficult to reach or are inaccessible. Due to the size of the units, they cannot be disassembled completely for a thorough cleaning. Freezer coils tend to be difficult to reach, difficult to clean, and expensive to replace if damaged.
  • Compatibility- Many freezers are made of metals such as aluminum that can be easily damaged by common products used for cleaning and sanitizing. As the damage occurs, it creates even more harborage points for microorganisms and additional cost for the processor.
  • Temperature- As the freezer is defrosted for thorough cleaning, the warmer temperatures allow existing Listeria to grow. The condensation created from the thaw can also contaminate other surrounding surfaces.

How can this be addressed? The industry is working toward better equipment design, not just for freezers, but for all equipment used in food manufacturing.
Additionally, the industry has recognized the need for cleaning and sanitizing chemicals that are effective in addressing the shortcomings of current equipment design, and products that are compatible with aluminum and other soft metals.

Sterilex Ultra Disinfectant Cleaner Solution 1 and Ultra Soft Metal Activator is a disinfection chemistry specifically designed to kill specific organisms such as Listeria as well as remove biofilm* on aluminum surfaces. It can be used to safely disinfect freezer surfaces while moving into inaccessible areas where biofilms are harbored.

Miller, Sara G. “Listeria in Your Freezer: How Long the Bacteria Survive.” LiveScience, Purch, 25 May 2016, www.livescience.com/54882-listeria-outbreak-frozen-foods.html.

Mackin, Kelsey M. “South Dakota scientists target Listeria in food processing plants.” Food Safety News, 14 Feb 2018, http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/02/south-dakota-scientists-target-listeria-in-food-processing-plants/#.WoTDsK6nHIV

*Biofilm label claims approved for specific applications only. See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.

Clean Surfaces Provide ROI for Dairy Producers

Whether dairy producers are raising their own calves, or contract raising for others, animal health is a top priority. Healthy calves lead to lower veterinary and death loss expenses, and ensure that a viable replacement heifer is entering the herd.

Part of raising healthy calves is maintaining a healthy environment, and feed sources that are free from pathogens that cause illness. A recent article published in Hoard’s Dairyman highlighted the risks of biofilm growth in calf feeding equipment.¹ When bacteria form a biofilm, they become resistant to many of the common methods used for sanitizing calf equipment, such as bleach dips. The surviving bacteria, harbored in a biofilm can then lead to an increase in scour days, reduced growth efficiency, and sometimes death.

Sterilex’s proprietary PerQuat® technology was specifically designed to break-up bacterial biofilm and kill resistant micro-organisms.* Sterilex is the only company with products approved to remove biofilm on both public health and industrial surfaces.* Sterilex’s patented line of products can also be used to disinfect hard surfaces such as calf huts and feeding equipment to aid in reduction of illness and disease transfer.

*Biofilm label claims are approved for specific applications only. See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.
1. Seiler, Maggie. “Break away from biofilm contamination.” Hoards.com. Dairyman, 31 July 2017. Web. 8 August 2017

FDA perspective on “Seek and Destroy”

The development and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signals a concerted effort to improve food safety in FDA inspected plants, and implement some of the same structure and oversight as seen in USDA inspected facilities.

In January of 2017, the FDA released an updated guidance document outlining their guidelines for Listeria control in ready-to-eat (RTE) food processing facilities. This new document “supports ongoing efforts by industry and government agencies to reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) in RTE foods. L. mono, a pathogen that can grow even in cold, refrigerated environments, is particularly harmful to the elderly, pregnant women and/or their pregnancy, and those who are immunocompromised.” [1]

The document, meant to expand upon the requirements for management of risk, and development of preventative controls outlined in FSMA, covers risk analysis and encourages food processors to expand their environmental monitoring programs. “Industry best practices and the “seek and destroy” approach used by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been incorporated into the draft guidance.” [1]

Adam Borger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Food Research Institute, spoke of the new guidance, saying, “I am a proponent of what the FDA is recommending in their draft guidance regarding sampling of food-contact surfaces for Listeria genus.  I feel that giving food processors the ability to sample food-contact surfaces for Listeria genus without absolutely having to place all product on hold until the result is returned, will encourage a more aggressive sampling plan to find and eliminate Listeria and niches where the microbe may persist.” [2]

Multiple tools can be used in a robust environmental monitoring program. Technologies such as Sterilex’s Indicon™ Gel can be used to rapidly detect biofilm harborage niches and track sources of contamination in seek and destroy applications. While traditional swabbing methods can be used to verify the absence of organisms on a “swab-able” surface, Indicon Gel can be used to identify harborage points in areas only a gel can reach, and provide rapid, visual results in a cost-effective manner*.

  1. https://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm536716.htm
  2. Borger, Adam C. University of Wisconsin-Madison, Food Research Institute. 26 May 2017

*The lack of a positive reaction from Indicon Gel does not guarantee that the surface is free from microorganisms.  Indicon Gel is not meant to take the place of routine microbial monitoring or organism-specific diagnostic tests.

*Biofilm label claims approved for specific applications only. See product label for full label claims and usage instructions.
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