Start-up company Bio-Fence has created an innovative polymer that, when added to a topcoat/paint binds disinfectant to the surface, increasing sanitation efficiency and eliminating pathogenic bacteria.
An estimated 600 million people in the world – almost one in ten – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 people die every year, according to the World Health Organization. Environmental pathogens within food production processes remain a considerable risk to food safety, with the presence of various bacteria in the production environment directly linked to the contamination of food.
Traditional sanitizers used on food production surfaces work for only a short time so need to be reapplied regularly to the contaminated surfaces. Bio-Fence has developed a breakthrough technology that acts as a topcoat layer on surfaces, prolonging the efficiency of traditional sanitizers. When the surface is sanitized with a traditional sanitation agent such as chlorine, Bio-Fence polymers within the topcoat extend the chlorine’s sanitization activity and improve its efficiency. Bio-Fence says its chemical mix-in prolongs the effectiveness of disinfectants against E. Coli, salmonella, and, most critically, listeria bacteria. The bacterial infection, listeria, is fatal in 25% of cases, even when treated with antibiotics, and 90% of people who get infected are hospitalized in the ICU.
Listeria primarily plagues food-production plants. These stubborn bacteria tolerate extremely low temperatures and dry weather, salt, and acidic chemicals. They hide in cracks and small niches If listeria contaminates store-bought frozen hot dogs or ice cream, they will still be active when the food is consumed at home. Disinfectants such as chlorine or bleach last only a short time – and in some cases, protection wanes after a few minutes.
“Bio-Fence‘s new chemical antimicrobial paint additive stabilizes disinfectants. Once the enriched paint is applied to floors, walls, and ceilings in industrial facilities, disinfectants last much longer, providing prolonged protection,” says Bio-Fence CEO, Ofer Shoham. “The paint additive has been under development for three years and is being used in four projects in Israel and another few abroad.”
In an 11-week proof-of-concept test earlier this year, paint with Bio-Fence’s antimicrobial additive was applied to the floor and lower parts of the walls of a hot roof “peeling room” in a major Israeli sausage manufacturing plant. Despite repeated, strict cleaning, the facility had a continuous presence of listeria prior to the pilot.
The peeling room presented specific challenges to maintaining hygiene levels: it’s cold inside, there is significant humidity and condensation, and heavy movement of workers and equipment all create an environment where listeria can take hold and multiply.
During the three-week control phase prior to the test commencing, listeria was detected in 91% of the daily floor samples. Following the application of the Bio-Fence-enhanced paint, listeria was completely undetectable on the floor surface. The pilot demonstrated a 99.9% reduction in the level of “gram-negative bacteria” and a considerable improvement in hygiene levels. All cleaning practices – including using a chlorine-based product – remained the same before and during the trial.
This product doesn’t need regulatory approval because it is not sold as an antimicrobial product. The company hopes that a recognized authority such as the FDA may adopt the Bio-Fence system as a new standard for keeping facilities germ-free.
Ready-to-eat foods like dairy, ice cream, and frozen foods are other potential applications. But it’s not limited only to these. Recently, the FDA announced a new battle against salmonella in the U.S. from chicken and eggs. In order to prevent salmonella, you need to deal with the entire supply chain. And one of the places where salmonella is highly spread is in the hatcheries. In hatcheries, these coatings are ideal for preventing salmonella from spreading from one flock to another.
Another application: yeast and mold are a huge problem in the industry, especially for a product that has to be matured, like cheese. It’s very important to cut down the use of preservatives in food but this makes the food more prone to contamination from pathogens
The company intends to sell the additive directly to paint manufacturers Bio-Fence ran a pilot with the local licensee of Sherwin-Williams, one of the largest paint producers in the world.
Bio-Fence CEO, Ofer Shoham, expects the additive to increase the price of a normal floor or wall coating by 10-15% per square meter. The chemical additive “won’t damage the basic function of these coatings. We’re simply adding another quality to the paint.”
One of the barriers to new technology coming into the food market is regulation. This area is heavily regulated. The beauty of the Bio-Fence technology is that it is free of regulation because it is not producing biocide. It is introducing a polymer that after being added to the coating paints, can immediately be used in the food industry. So the company can enter the market very fast with almost no limitations.
Bio-Fence got its start in 2018 as part of The Kitchen food tech hub in Ashdod. (Kitchen, founded by the Strauss Group, is part of the Israeli Innovation Authority Technological Incubators Program.) The company currently has 7 employees and is headed by CEO, Ofer Shoham. The company has raised nearly 4 million dollars. Bio-Fence operates in Jerusalem’s Har Hotzvim high-tech center and in Bar-Lev Industrial Park in Israel’s northern Galilee.
For information, contact their web site www.bio-fence.com.
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