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Food equipment coated with cooking oil prevents bacteria buildup
August 14, 2018, 5:22 pm

Industrial scale production of food often involves mixing raw ingredients in enormous stainless-steel machines that can be difficult to clean. With repeated use, equipment surfaces get minute scratches and grooves, allowing bacteria and biofilms to buildup and increase the risk of contamination from microbes such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.

Researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada have now proposed a simple and inexpensive effective solution to the problem — applying a thin layer of cooking oil at the metal surface to fill in microscopic scrapes, cracks and fissures, effectively creating a hydrophobic barrier to bacterial contaminants. They found that this solution resulted in a 1,000x reduction in bacterial levels inside the industrial machines tested.

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 industrial food equipment makes it harder for cleaning materials to do a thorough job, and leftover bacteria can build up resistance to the cleaning agents. The new 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. The research team is continuing to test new combinations of oils, foods and biofilm types to increase the efficiency of the bacteria barriers. They are also exploring options of using this method in developing countries to minimize bacterial infection and improve mortality rates.



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