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Salmonella biofilms may be impossible to kill

Salmonella food poisoning is a very serious problem which can cause serious illness and even death. This problem becomes of deeper concern due to the difficulty of killing salmonella biolfilms. Salmonella biofilms are incredibly resistant to powerful disinfectants, reported the American Society for Microbiology on Jan. 15, 2014.

A Chinese worker stricken by food poisoning receives treatment in Shenzhen of Guangdong Province, China.
China Photos/Getty Images

Research published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology says once Salmonella bacteria get into a food processing facility and have an opportunity to form a biofilm on surfaces, it is likely to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to kill it. Salmonellosis is the second most common cause of food-borne illness internationally. When there is contamination of surfaces in food processing environments there may be biofilm formation with a risk of food contamination. The effective decontamination of biofilm contaminated surfaces is very difficult.

Only sodium hydroxide was found to result in eradication of early biofilm formation. None of the three agents tested, which included sodium hypochlorite, sodium hydroxide and benzalkonium chloride, achieved eradication of mature biofilm, even after 90-minutes contact time. The difficulty of eradication of an established Salmonella biofilm emphasizes the vital importance of preventing access of Salmonella to post-cook areas in food production facilities. All of the types of Salmonella are able to adopt the specialized biofilm lifestyle on many surfaces, including glass, stainless steel, glazed tile, and plastic.

The biofilm of Salmonella gets more dense over time, and becomes very firmly attached to the surface. Many times the disinfectant may add very little, if anything, to good cleaning and appropriate food handling practices. More research is needed to determine better methods for killing Salmonella biofilms. In the United States it is estimated there are over a million cases of Salmonella annually, along with 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 fatalities. Salmonella food poisoning and the resistance of salmonella biolfilms to disinfectants therefore presents us with a very serious health concern.

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