Main research question/goal
This project examines the presence, formation, mechanisms, elimination and prevention of biofilms that are typical for the food industry and can even vary per food sector. Currently the knowledge about biofilms in relation to food spoilage and food safety is limited. The role of biofilms in the maintenance of persistent microbiological contamination with respect to microorganisms such as zoonoses and spoilers remains an open question. The final aim of this project is to gain a better view into the biofilm problems in food companies, to know the composition (microbiological and chemical) of biofilms, to develop techniques that are effective to prevent and/or eliminate undesirable biofilms and finally to set up practical guidelines for cleaning and disinfection with the focus on elimination and prevention of biofilms in food companies.Research approach
First, detection and sampling methods for biofilms are examined. Subsequently we use these techniques in a number of participating food companies where we map the biofilm formation through extensive sampling. The sampled biofilms are characterized both chemically and microbiologically. An in vitro reproducible model system for the growth of biofilms will be developed to investigate the microorganisms isolated at the companies. We want to assess to what extent these isolates form other types of biofilms in the model system in comparison to standard organisms and we will also investigate the differences in gene expression profiles. Innovative and more effective techniques for prevention and/or elimination of biofilms are examined and also the application of inhibitor products against biofilm formation is evaluated. Finally we want to set up practical guidelines for cleaning and disinfection with the focus on elimination and prevention of biofilms. Different aspects of this research are done in collaboration with (or by) other research groups.Relevance/Valorisation
The results, which can be put into practice in the participating companies in the short term, can be used to develop practical guidelines for the food industry to eradicate or prevent biofilms, are also useful for suppliers of disinfectants in order to apply innovative inhibitor products in their cleaning and disinfection products and for service providing companies such as commercial laboratories to use the optimized detection methods for biofilms. The acquired knowledge will enable the different operators (food industry, suppliers of cleaning and disinfection products, machine manufacturers and service providing companies) to control or decrease the presence of biofilms. This could lead to a more guaranteed shelf-life or even extended shelf-life of food products.