Tag Archives: Disinfectant

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.


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.

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.

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.

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