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Newsletter February 2015

Do biofilms eat away at the shelf life of food? KILLFILM attempts to extend shelf life by controlling biofilm formation in the food industry

The role of biofilms in spoilage of food products is still unclear, therefore ILVO and four other research institutes have started a two-year practice-oriented study. This research will provide insight into biofilms in the food industry: their presence, formation, mechanisms, elimination and prevention . The ultimate aim is to better guarantee and even extend the shelf life of food products.

Biofilms play an important role in several ecological niches, including the agricultural environment and the feed- and food industry. The importance and role of biofilms in persistent infections with spoilage organisms and pathogenic bacteria is insufficiently known, however. This project aims to gain insight into the presence, formation, mechanisms, elimination and prevention of the biofilms typical for the entire food industry and also for specific food sectors.
Initially biofilm detection and sampling methods will be optimised, then used in the participating food companies to map biofilm formation in practice. The sampled biofilms will then be characterised both chemically and microbiologically. In the second phase of the project a biofilm model will be developed to reproduce biofilms in vitro. This will make it possible to perform a lab-scale examination of the biofilm properties of the obtained microbiological isolates. Using the model, biofilm types and/or quantities produced by the obtained field isolates will be compared with standard organisms. Moreover, gene expression profiles will be investigated in the model systems. Innovative and effective methods for biofilm prevention and elimination will be tested and inhibitors against biofilm formation will be evaluated. The projected outcome of this project is to obtain a practical guidance for cleaning and disinfection with its focus on biofilm elimination and prevention.

The short-term results for the participating companies will be the mapping of the biofilm problems in their production environment and the availability of practical guidelines to prevent and eliminate biofilms. For suppliers of disinfectants, the results of this project could lead to the use of innovative cleaning and disinfection agents. Service companies such as commercial labs, will be able to apply optimised detection, sampling and analytical methods for biofilms in practice. The acquired knowledge should enable the food industry, suppliers of cleaning and disinfection products, equipment manufacturers and service companies to control or reduce the presence of biofilms. The final result: better guaranteed and possibly extended shelf life of food.


Title: KILLFILM – Control of biofilm formation in the production environment to guarantee a longer shelf life.
Funding: Flanders’ FOOD, IWT
Partners: KAHO Sint-Lieven – Research Group EFBT – Lab for Enzyme, Fermentation and Brewery Technology; KU Leuven – S&P group – Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics; UGent – Department Industrial Biological Science (IBW) – Lab for Food Microbiology and Biotechnology; UGent – Department Biochemistry and Microbiology – Lab for Microbiology (LM)
Term: April 2014 – march 2016
Contact: Koen De Reu, Sharon Maes