Why keeping bacteria alive longer actually helps improve food safety: a conversation with a 3M inventor.

Sailaja  Chandrapati

Most of us clean with the intention of eliminating bacteria. While that seems like a simple goal, the science is a bit more complicated—especially in settings like food manufacturing facilities.

Food processing equipment needs to be clean and bacteria-free to ensure food products are safe to eat. One way the food industry confirms that cleaning has been effective is to test surfaces for remaining bacteria. However, the design of some sampling swabs often lets bacteria remain undetected.  

If a biofilm has formed to protect the bacteria, your swab may pass right over it. Or, even if you catch the bacteria on your swab, it may die before you get the chance to test it, so you’d never know it was there in the first place.

Disrupting biofilms was top of mind for 3M scientist Dr. Sailaja Chandrapati (pictured) while developing the 3M™ Environmental Scrub Sampler. How did she solve for the issue?  

On a recent episode of the podcast “Solutions,” Dr. Chandrapati dives into the science behind the invention and explains the technology that makes it work: 

“The starting point was a simple sponge, but Sailaja had to engineer almost every part of the sampler from the color to the plastic handle shape to get something that would work just right.”  

You can listen to the full podcast episode on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Spotify, and learn more about the 3M™ Environmental Scrub Sampler here