RSPH – antibacterials are a powerful tool against foodborne illness

UK food safety experts believe that new EU laws reducing the effectiveness of disinfectants will make antibacterials an increasingly powerful tool in food hygiene.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) conference ‘Good practice, better solutions, safer food’ held in London discussed emerging challenges to food safety in today’s catering, manufacturing and supply chain.

Pete Woodhead is Technical Director of Selden Research Ltd. and past Chairman of The British Association for Chemical Specialities (BACS) which represents manufacturers of biocides and formulated disinfectants in the UK. 

In his talk ‘Biocides and disinfectants – where next and what are the consequence for hygiene?’ he outlined his concerns about the EU’s current efforts to regulate the use of food area disinfectants. 

He warned that EU regulations reducing the potency of some or all disinfectants will lead to an increased risk of food poisoning.

Another key area of concern is Listeria monocytogenes, which is the biggest cause of death from foodborne illness in the UK, EU and USA. 

Kaarin Goodburn, Director and Secretary General of the Chilled Food Association said that although Listeriosis occurs much less frequently than other foodborne illnesses such as Campylobacteriosis and Salmonellosis, it has a significantly higher rate of fatality. Almost 1 in 10 people who contract Literiosis in the UK will die from their illness.

Some of the known hotspots for Listeria in food production include wet places, conveyor belt rollers, equipment controls, door handles, gaps between joined materials, equipment support rods, worn or cracked rubber seals around chiller doors and drains.

Although Listeria is resistant to cleaning and disinfection, the bacteria cannot survive on an antibacterial protected surface.

Speaker Gary Taylor is Regional Health and Safety Manager for Bourne Leisure, comprising the brands Warner, Butlins and Haven. Gary looks after the welfare of guests of one the largest providers of holidays at parks, resorts and hotels across the UK. 

In his talk ‘Norovirus and the leisure industry’ Gary explained how antibacterial fabric spray was being used to reduce microbial load in fabrics, therefore reducing the risk of the spread of Norovirus as a result of exposure to all types of soft furnishings and fabrics including chairs, curtains and carpets. 

Paul Morris, CEO of Addmaster. told delegates that antibacterial technology is being used throughout the food chain to reduce the risk of food contamination from bacteria including E.coli, Campylobacter, Listeria and Salmonella.  For example, it will inhibit the bacterial growth on the outer packaging of fresh meat products through every stage between farm and fork.

When Paul invited delegates to identify key areas in their opinion where the application of Biomaster technology would improve public health and hygiene it threw up some interesting results.

The responses highlighted the need for improved hygiene practice and safeguards to prevent cross contamination between food products and increased awareness of exposure pathways and assessment.

62% of responses related to domestic and professional kitchens with kitchen fittings (12%) such as handles, taps, cooker controls and light switches being areas of concern.  

12% of responses related to school and nursery applications where respondents indicated the need for increased awareness of the risks of cross contamination.  Supermarket trolleys, conveyors and food packaging also featured in the survey results. 

Competition winner Simon Ruddy (above right) received a prize from Addmaster CEO Paul Morris for his suggestions for antibacterial applications.

The conference was jointly chaired by Chaired by Professor Lisa Ackerley, Food Safety Adviser, British Hospitality Association and Acoura Consulting, Visiting Professor, University of Salford and Professor Carol Wallace, University of Central Lancashire.

*Please note that Addmaster was acquired by the Polygiene Group AB in January 2021, so all news articles prior to that date will still be branded as Addmaster.