By Mark McInnes
Cleaning is a fundamental for the safety of any environment. The deposit of microbial organisms on surfaces occurs continuously and may lead to the formation of biofilms in areas where organic matter supports microbial growth. Subsequent colonization purports a significant risk to health should any of the species be pathogenic.
Proper industrial cleaning is a multifaceted process involving several steps. Although various guidelines exist depending on the environment, they all follow a similar procedure. It starts with a hazard analysis to determine areas where contamination is likely to occur. This is followed by an analysis of the risk associated with certain levels of contamination based on which species are present. Once these have been established, cleaning, and when necessary, disinfection is implemented. These are then audited using verification procedures to ensure effectiveness.
The Pathfinder’s technology visually identifies organic matter in the form of a colour.
In industries that rely on 24/7 business continuity, such as food processing plants, the presence of any microbial biofilm could lead to widespread contamination and possibly outbreaks. This is especially true should species be pathogenic. Any missed opportunity for effective cleaning presents a risk. Being identified as the cause of infectious outbreak can lead to significant damage both to reputation and the bottom line.
One potential solution to this problem is the OptiSolve Pathfinder, which was developed in 2017 to provide real-time feedback of cleaning effectiveness. It works by detecting one of the basic requirements for large-scale microbial contamination, organic matter.
Organic matter allows for both attachment (and in the case of bacteria, fungi and protozoa) and growth of these organisms. The Pathfinder’s technology visually identifies organic matter in the form of a colour. Intensifying from yellow to red depending on the level of contamination, similar to the way a weather map indicates the intensity of a storm. The system also provides this information in a matter of minutes, allowing for real time and targeted intervention.
In 2019, Genome Canada awarded OptiSolve and Dr. Shana Kelley, at University of Toronto, a $4.5M grant to identify pathogenic species using nanoparticles integrated into the spray. When the project is complete, the technology will be able to identify pathogenic species such as Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridioides difficile. This technology will allow for the inclusion of precise disinfection procedures to ensure cleaning is as effective as possible. The goal is a reduction in the amount of microbial spread and possibly, unnecessary outbreaks.
Cleaning effectively is essential for ensuring surfaces are safe. While outbreaks and recalls continue to occur, the inclusion of a real time visual assessment tool could prove advantageous.
About the Author
Mark McInnes is the Technical Director at OptiSolve, where he is responsible for overseeing Research and Development of the OptiSolve Pathfinder imaging system. He has extensive knowledge of sanitation chemicals, processes and environmental surface verification from his former work as a research chemist specializing in hard surface cleaning and disinfection, food plant sanitation and infection prevention and control. He is the recipient of research funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and most recently the Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP). In partnership with the University of Toronto (UofT), his current research focus is on optical speciation techniques through applied genomics.