Cooking oil coating prevents bacteria growth on food processing equipment

Researchers used a thin layer of cooking oil to prevent bacterial growth on machines used to create mass-produced foods.

Tyler MacDonald | Oct 08, 2019

Mass-produced foods typically include raw ingredients mixed using massive stainless steel machines, which can be tough to clean. And although surface scratches are not aesthetically appealing, they can also trap food bacteria and residue, increasing the risk of microorganism contamination like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto is researching safer, cheaper, and more effective ways of preventing bacteria growth in these machines. One of their new proposals is using a thin layer of cooking oil to fill in microscopic cracks, scraps, and fissures to create a bacterial attachment barrier.

The results revealed that there was a 1000-times reduction in bacterial levels in the industrial machines examined.

"Coating a stainless steel surface with an everyday cooking oil has proven remarkably effective in repelling bacteria," said Ben Hatton, a member of the research team. "The oil fills in the cracks, creates a hydrophobic layer and acts as a barrier to contaminants on the surface."

"Contamination in food preparation equipment can impact individual health, cause costly product recalls and can still result after chemical-based cleaning occurs," Hatton said. "The research showed that using a surface treatment and a cooking oil barrier provides greater coverage and results in 1,000 less bacteria roaming around."

Hatton's team is continuing to test new combinations of foods, oils, and biofilm types to improve the bacteria barriers. The team also plans to explore the possibility of using this method in developing countries to curb mortality rates by decreasing bacterial infection.

The findings were published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.