Biofilms and Calf Care Equipment
I am preparing for a presentation focused on sanitation procedures. While doing this I have been reading a lot of literature on biofilms. How do they develop? Where do they develop? How do they grow?
One of the examples of biofilms in the articles I was reading related to dental plaque formation.
Yes, dental plaque in your mouth is a biofilm. They form when bacteria stick to our teeth. If we do not remove these bacteria through frequent and regular flossing and brushing within 48 hours the bacteria can begin to stick to the tooth surfaces. This article continued by telling me that after two days this coating or plaque will begin to harden becoming more difficult to brush away.
Within ten days the plaque hardens and the dental hygienist will recognize this as dental tartar. This is the stuff that ultimately damages teeth and surrounding tissues.
Other literature (mostly from the food processing industry) mentioned how difficult it is to be sure that ALL surfaces get cleaned. That's why food slicers and grinders are made to breakdown for cleaning.
As I thought about calf feeding equipment I thought about mixers, whisks and pails. Where are the "hidden" places that never get brushed? [This assumes that you know that brushing is one of the key elements in removing the residues that hide bacteria and provide food for them to develop biofilms.]
For example, many of us use calf pails for feeding both milk and water. They do not get washed between feedings. Whoa! What a great place to grow biofilms. And, get this, ATP meters are ineffective in picking up biofilms as well as swabbing for culturing because the bacteria can be below the biofilm surfaces.
Or, we mix milk replacer with a whisk (often stainless steel). How well is this cleaned? The part up by the handle where the individual strands are anchored is a perfect place for biofilms - hard to brush - potentially a huge reservoir for bacteria even if it looks clean.
Literature suggests that one pretty reliable indicator of biofilm presence on supposedly clean equipment is a slimy feeling when touched. Yum! I want to run right out and eat food prepared with slimy equipment.