How Do Bacteria Survive In A Food Production Facility?

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One of the most confounding parts of producing food products is not identifying food safety and quality lapses…those can be identified with a thorough risk assessment. Frustration can be common for practitioners when a food safety plan is actually comprehensive, but problems still emerge.

One contributing factor to this quandary is the protective mechanisms bacteria can employ to survive in a food production environment, even in the face of robust preventive efforts and sanitation.

Here’s a look at how two common issues, spores and biofilm, can thrive in food production even when every measure is being taken to prevent them.

Spores

Disinfectants can be employed in various ways to kill bacteria, but not destroy their spores.

Spores and their vegetative rods can form, even in unfavorable environments where there is a lack of water or nutrients.

They are resistant to extreme temperatures, pH levels, UV light, and can even survive in space. Studies have shown the spores can survive for centuries, possibly millennia.

The best approach to spore prevention is air filtration, keeping them from entering the environment in the first place. This can become more difficult depending on the geographic setting of the facility because the surrounding air quality can vary greatly by location.  

In other cases, spores may need to be carefully germinated to allow them to grow into cells where their membranes can be penetrated and destroyed.

Biofilms

A biofilm is a group of bacteria than anchor themselves and live as a community.

They can live on both living and non-living surfaces including biomedical devices, floors, toilets, and many other surfaces within a food production facility.

They are resistant to cleaners and sanitizers, extreme temperatures, acids, antibiotics, and can even thrive with low moisture levels.

Biofilms must be removed physically, meaning they will typically require the use of abrasives with scrubbing in conjunction with detergents to remove the biofilm’s fats and soil.

Then hot water must be applied and the surface in question must be sanitized. Sanitizing alone only rids the surface of its top layers and does not penetrate the core of the bacterial community.

Keep these factors in mind when considering your food safety plan. Spore and Biofilm issues may be curbed through robust preventive measures, but their protective mechanisms may also allow them to thrive in the face of prevention.

Contact us if you have any question about preventing bacteria or pathogens in your facility.


The CL:4 Series is an ongoing resource for food quality & safety professionals. Chestnut Labs provides easily-digestible food safety info and answers in 400 words or so.

Bryce Wilks