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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #338499

Research Project: Development of Alternative Intervention Technologies for Fresh or Minimally Processed Foods

Location: Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research

Title: Targeting biofilms with cold plasma: new approaches to a persistent problem

item Niemira, Brendan

Submitted to: Food Safety Magazine
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/20/2017
Publication Date: 7/18/2017
Citation: Niemira, B.A. 2017. Targeting biofilms with cold plasma: new approaches to a persistent problem. Food Safety Magazine. Volume 1 Page 1.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: For the food industry, almost nothing presents as many problems for antimicrobial sanitation as the increased difficulties presented by biofilms. Biofilms are tightly-grouped masses of microorganisms, clustered together in complex communities to provide water-impermeable cellular protection. What makes biofilms such a headache for sanitation programs is their cross-linked extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). This EPS serves to inhibit the antimicrobial efficacy of chlorinated sanitizers, organic acids, and other chemical tools. Among the novel physical processes being evaluated for efficacy against biofilms is cold plasma, a form of ionized gas. Dozens of cold plasma technologies are being actively developed and evaluated around the world. Each of these have their own strengths, which are, in many cases, closely aligned to the specific contamination problems at hand. With respect to biofilms, cold plasma is already gaining attention as a potential tool for the technology for applications in the food industry. Since cold plasma is, essentially, a dry, nonthermal, chemical-free technology, it offers certain potential advantages over conventional wash systems. At the same time, since cold plasma does not require the use of chlorinated compounds, organic acids, or other conventional chemical agents, and leaves behind no residue, it may have a greater role in continuous cleaning applications for food handling equipment in food processing systems. This could be of particular interest where a low-input, more sustainable sanitation technology would be desired. As cold plasma technologies are developed, they must be validated to ensure efficacy, functionality, flexibility, and feasibility in the types of real world settings and conditions that are of greatest concern to the food industry. The most likely case would be combining cold plasma with conventional sanitizing strategies to be an optimized, integrated solution, to effectively deal with microbial biofilms across the entire landscape of food processing equipment, facilities and products.