Sanitising technology takes care of biofilm contamination


Synergex is the first US-EPA recognised sanitiser that’s been proven to kill biofilms on food contact surfaces, improving food safety. Food & Beverage Industry News investigates.

The challenge of eliminating biofilms from the food production process has been an ongoing headache for manufacturers who have had to rely on less-than-ideal sanitisers to try and break through tough-to-kill bacteria and other microorganisms.

Synergex has been developed to kill 99.9999 per cent of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Listeria monocytogenes pathogens in biofilms on hard, non-porous food contact surfaces, at no-rinse concentration levels.

As a result, Synergex is the first US EPA-registered sanitiser for biofilm removal.

Biofilm generates during the production of food, no matter the sector, and continues to build up over time if not kept in check, said Dr Colin Court, Senior Program Leader at Ecolab.

“There are always residual microflora contaminations in food process streams and over time accumulated food soils create further harbourage and food sources for these residuals to flourish,” he said.

“This seeds biofilms in crevices allowing exponential growth in microorganism populations.  At this point, microorganisms will excrete polysaccharides and create their own ecosystem different to the external environment.  These excretions are extremely sticky facilitating an accumulation of inorganic and organic particulates that form a layer that protects the biofilm. “

“If these biofilms are not removed, and they are extremely difficult to remove, they will cross contaminate subsequent foods produced on the same production line.”

Historically cleaning and sanitising agents used to tackle biofilms were either chlorine or peroxide based, and these chemistries would struggle to penetrate through a biofilm’s protective layer.  They worked great against planktonic microorganisms but were not effective against aggregates protected within a biofilm,” said Dr Court.

“For any intervention to be effective, either temperature or chemical, it needs to penetrate through the outer layer of the biofilm to kill the microorganisms within,” said Court.

“Synergex is able to penetrate into biofilms where other agents can’t and can be used in many applications, including lines, tanks, and processing equipment.”

Ecolab developed peroxygen compounds with increasing lipophilic properties for better penetration into cell walls, allowing for much greater efficacy than traditional sanitisers.

biofilms“Synergex takes this concept even further,” said Court. “It has a unique active raw material with surface-active functionality, per-sulphonated oleic acid (PSOA), that gives the product an extra mode of action.

“The reason why the product is called Synergex is because in addition to PSOA it also contains hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid and peroctanoic acid. Used together these active components provide a highly effective broad spectrum kill against a multitude of pathogenic and spoilage organisms.”

Since its implementation Ecolab has observed Synergex being far more effective than previous chemistries.

Having the ability to remove those biofilms and mitigate the risk of cross contamination is a critical step for the future of safe food processing, Court said.

“No matter the food process stream, it’s critical that the process starts up with zero micro contamination,” he added.

The production capacity in many food processes is dictated by quality outcomes rather than supply.  The food itself is a major contamination vector that will limit production but so is the residual micro load in the processing equipment.

“A hygiene program that reduces or eliminates the starting micro load in the system is highly desirable and this is where Synergex provides a distinct advantage over other sanitisers,” said Court.

Court said it was difficult to get a total top-to-bottom clean in most food production streams and to remove food soils completely.

“There are going to be some areas such as gasket seats, elbows and dead ends in a production stream that are difficult to clean so the ability to penetrate into and remove biofilms as they form is extremely powerful across all food sectors,” he said.

There are various ways to apply Synergex; including batch or direct dosed into CIP and in various open plant cleaning applications.

For example, it can be sprayed onto the external surfaces of processing equipment such as fillers, but if a stronger residence is needed then Synergex can be combined with a foaming agent for longer contact times.

“In effect foaming is the same principal as spraying except that foam solutions cling to the surface better than what free rinsing spray solutions can,” said Court.

The best results from the use of sanitisers such as Synergex are always going to be during a standalone sanitiser step after cleaning.

“But we have found that we can also achieve good results with Synergex by dosing it into an acid cleaning solution to save time, energy and water,” he said.

Tests also demonstrated Synergex’s ability to kill a minimum of six of the 10 Listeria monocytogenes and pseudomonas aeruginosa as a no-rinse sanitiser.

The sanitiser can also be used on a large range of surfaces from fillers, mixers and conveyors to equipment, pipelines, tanks, vats, and pasteurisers.

Synergex can even be applied to shoes and boots to extend the protection area to employees.

The high mineral solubility capability of Synergex can, in some circumstances, eliminate the need for an acid wash cycle, which helps to save water, energy and time allowing food manufactures to increase production time where needed.

A case study conducted at a food production plant recorded water savings of up to 24 per cent, energy savings of up to 42 per cent and time savings of up to 35 per cent.

One factor in Synergex’s ability to deep clean is the sanitiser being able to reach the smallest of nooks and crannies on and around food contact surfaces and machinery.

“Most of the domestic sanitisers will claim a 3-log reduction which means it kills 99.9 per cent of microflora, but that only works if you can contact the microflora,” said Court.

“You can spray that surface but unless you have some type of cleaning happening concurrently then the sanitisers aren’t going to work.”

Meanwhile, Synergex kills 99.9999 per cent of microflora when used as recommended.

Synergex has already proven its ability to perform deeper sensitisation through tests and practical application and in doing so, enhancing food safety, product quality, productivity, and safety.

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