Cooking oil coating prevents bacteria from growing on food processing equipment

July 27, 2018

Many foods produced on an industrial scale include raw ingredients mixed together in enormous stainless steel machines that can be difficult to clean. With repeated use, equipment surfaces get minute scratches and grooves, providing bacteria and biofilms the perfect place to hide. While surface scratches may appear small to the naked eye, they are like a canyon to bacteria, which are only a few micrometers in size. Surface-trapped food residue and bacteria then increase the risk of contamination from microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.

Professor Ben Hatton of the University of Toronto's Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Dr. Dalal Asker and Dr. Tarek Awad research cheaper, safer and more effective ways to prevent bacteria thriving inside these machines. This minimizes the risk of cross contamination, which can lead to food-borne disease. Their team have proposed a simple new solution: trapping a thin layer of cooking oil at the metal surface to fill in microscopic scrapes, cracks and fissures and create a barrier to bacterial attachment.

They found that this solution resulted in a 1,000x reduction in bacterial levels inside the industrial machines tested. Their work is recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

"Coating a stainless steel surface with an everyday cooking oil has proven remarkably effective in repelling bacteria," says Hatton who collaborated on the project with AGRI-NEO, an Ontario seed processing company looking for a solution to a common problem in its industry. "The oil fills in the cracks, creates a hydrophobic layer and acts as a barrier to contaminants on the surface."

This simple and cost-effective alternative builds on the Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) principle, initially developed at Harvard to trap lubricant layers into a surface microstructure and create slippery, non-wetting and non-adhesive properties. Cooking oils such as olive, corn or canola also provide a safer option for cleaning food-processing equipment than the harsh chemicals and disinfectants that are typically used. The sheer size of the machines makes it harder for cleaning materials to do a thorough job, and leftover bacteria can build up resistance to the cleaning agents. Hatton's method of filling the scratches with oil prevents bacteria from settling and essentially cleans the surface without leaving chemical residues on the stainless steel surface.

"Contamination in food preparation equipment can impact individual health, cause costly product recalls and can still result after chemical-based cleaning occurs," says Hatton. "The research showed that using a surface treatment and a cooking oil barrier provides greater coverage and results in 1,000 less bacteria roaming around."

The Hatton research group continues to test new combinations of oils, foods and biofilm types to increase the efficiency of the bacteria barriers. They will also explore options of using this method in developing countries to minimize bacterial infection and improve mortality rates.
-end-


University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering

Related Bacteria Articles from Brightsurf:

Siblings can also differ from one another in bacteria
A research team from the University of Tübingen and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) is investigating how pathogens influence the immune response of their host with genetic variation.

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.

Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.

Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.

Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.

Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.

How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.

The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?

Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.

Read More: Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.