An Israeli antimicrobial coating has managed to eliminate all traces of a deadly foodborne illness in a recent test conducted in a hot dog peeling room at a major sausage manufacturing facility in Israel.
The company, Bio-Fence, developed the coating, which was applied to the floor and lower part of the walls of the room which, despite repeated and strict disinfectant routines, had experienced high levels of listeria, particularly on the production floor.
Listeria is one of the deadliest foodborne illnesses. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, even if treated aggressively with antibiotics, as many as 30% of infected people die and more than 90% of people are hospitalized – often in intensive care units.
In the three weeks before the proof-of-concept (POC) pilot in which Bio-Fence’s coating was applied, listeria was detected in 21 out of 23 (91%) daily floor samples. After application, the bacteria were completely undetectable on the floor surface during day-to-day production.
“Results from the pilot show a dramatic reduction of up to 99.9999% in the level of gram-negative bacteria as demonstrated by Enterobacteria readings, and a considerable improvement in hygiene levels as demonstrated by Total Count readings,” a release on the pilot explained, noting that exactly the same cleaning and hygiene routines, involving a chlorine-based product, were practiced before and after the Bio-Fence application.
Bio-Fence was founded in 2018 at the Kitchen Hub food tech incubator and is run by CEO Ofer Shoham, who had worked in the food industry for nearly 30 years.
The company’s focus is to develop antimicrobial coatings and paints to destroy microorganisms on contact and create a contamination-free environment. Its polymer is added to a topcoat that is then applied to surfaces, stabilizing the disinfectant onto the surface for an extended period of time, which helps maintain sanitation.
Environmental pathogens within the food production process are one of the greatest challenges of the industry. Bacteria, such as listeria, are linked to the contamination of food.
Listeria is one of the most difficult bacteria to remove. It tolerates extreme conditions, including low temperature and dry conditions, and even thrives against salt and chemicals with high acidic levels.
The hot dog peeling room was specifically selected for the pilot because of its complex conditions, including high humidity and heavy movement of workers and equipment.
Because of the success of the pilot, the sausage facility is continuing to use the company’s coatings and is looking to expand their use in other parts of the facility.
“The POC demonstrated that our technology can work under the most challenging conditions and in real time,” Shoham said.
Bio-Fence is working closely with the Israeli chemical and painting industries to use its polymer as an additive to their products, he said. The company is also eyeing the global marketplace because “we know our technology will be applicable around the world.”
It will also likely be applicable in additional industries, according to Lior Dudaie, Bio-Fence’s vice president of business development and marketing.
She said that pathogens are all around us and can be a real danger to humankind, as the coronavirus pandemic has shown.
Shoham said he could envision the coating being used in the hospital and hospitality industries, for example.
“We believe that our technology will eventually be standard for flooring and walls in the food and other industries that have high sensitivity in terms of bacteria,” Dudaie said, with Shoham saying that “this is the real vision for implementing this technology.”