ABSTRACT

Biofilm formation by Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica at meat processing plants poses a potential risk of meat product contamination. Many common sanitizers are unable to completely eradicate biofilms formed by these foodborne pathogens because of the three-dimensional biofilm structure and the presence of bacterial extracellular polymeric substances (EPSs). A novel multifaceted approach combining multiple chemical reagents with various functional mechanisms was used to enhance the effectiveness of biofilm control. We tested a multicomponent sanitizer consisting of a quaternary ammonium compound (QAC), hydrogen peroxide, and the accelerator diacetin for its effectiveness in inactivating and removing Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica biofilms under meat processing conditions. E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella biofilms on common contact surfaces were treated with 10, 20, or 100% concentrations of the multicomponent sanitizer solution for 10 min, 1 h, or 6 h, and log reductions in biofilm mass were measured. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was used to directly observe the effect of sanitizer treatment on biofilm removal and bacterial morphology. After treatment with the multicomponent sanitizer, viable E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella biofilm cells were below the limit of detection, and the prevalence of both pathogens was low. After treatment with a QAC-based control sanitizer, surviving bacterial cells were countable, and pathogen prevalence was higher. SEM analysis of water-treated control samples revealed the three-dimensional biofilm structure with a strong EPS matrix connecting bacteria and the contact surface. Treatment with 20% multicomponent sanitizer for 10 min significantly reduced biofilm mass and weakened the EPS connection. The majority of the bacterial cells had altered morphology and compromised membrane integrity. Treatment with 100% multicomponent sanitizer for 10 min dissolved the EPS matrix, and no intact biofilm structure was observed; instead, scattered clusters of bacterial aggregates were detected, indicating the loss of cell viability and biofilm removal. These results indicate that the multicomponent sanitizer is effective, even after short exposure with dilute concentrations, against E. coli O157:H7 and S. enterica biofilms.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • No viable biofilm cells were detected after treatment with the multicomponent sanitizer.

  • Prevalence of both pathogens was low after treatment with the multicomponent sanitizer.

  • SEM analysis revealed that treatment dissolved the EPS matrix and destroyed the biofilm.

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