ARS, Company Team Up to Fight Biofilm Food
October 22, 2009
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientist and a private company worked to develop a new chemical formulation
that could help meat processing plants keep work surfaces free of
Prior to her retirement, microbiologist Judy Arnold worked at the
Poultry Microbiological Safety Research Unit in Athens, Ga. In cooperation
with Sterilex Corp. of Owings
Mill, Md., she tested the company's proprietary formulation for controlling
biofilms that contain the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.
This organism, which can contaminate some ready-to-eat meats, causes serious
illness in about 2,500 people each year, resulting in 500 deaths.
Biofilms are protective layers of proteins and polysaccharides that surround
bacteria and stick to equipment surfaces. These protective shields trap
spoilage bacteria and other pathogens that contaminate food during processing,
and they resist cleaning and sanitizing. Longer production runs provide more
opportunity for biofilms to establish themselves, and today's longer shelf life
adds to the risk of contamination, according to Arnold.
In studies, Arnold found that Sterilex's proprietary formulation appeared to
be a cost-effective disinfectant for use in environments for poultry and meat
production and processing. The formulation uses multiple chemical and physical
actions to penetrate a biofilm, kill the microorganisms, and remove the biofilm
Arnold's results show that the formulation was 100 percent effective,
providing total kill and more than 90 percent biofilm removal. This
disinfectant, according to Arnold, is more effective than currently used
disinfectants in reducing L. monocytogenes biofilm growth. These test
evaluations also resulted in instructions for use that will meet
U.S. Department of
Agriculture "zero tolerance" regulations for L.
Though L monocytogenes is killed by cooking or pasteurization, it can
survive many chemicals used during processing. The pathogen's ability to grow
at low temperatures may allow its growth in or on raw or improperly processed,
ready-to-eat foods even when they are refrigerated.
The cooperative research between ARS and Sterilex was funded under a grant
from USDA's National
Institute of Food and Agriculture. The research supports the USDA priority
of ensuring food safety.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.