Universal Design with Microban Protection

In 2017, Syracuse China, part of the Libbey family of brands, introduced the Constellation™ series. It’s the first commercial dinnerware to be made with Microban®, the antimicrobial technology also used by brands like Metro and Rubbermaid. The Constellation series is designed to stand up to the demands of high-volume foodservice operations, from fast-casual eateries with counter service to fine-dining restaurants with 300 seats. The collection offers three rim styles: Eos, a checkered pattern; Galileo, which features concentric circles; and Rigel, a plain pattern introduced in early 2018.

Each pattern in the Constellation collection is made with a porcelain Lunar White body, the brightest shade in the Syracuse China catalog. Microban technology is incorporated into the fully vitrified dinnerware’s glaze to prevent the bright white exterior from developing stains, odors, and other unsightly signs of degradation that force operators to purchase replacement pieces. To learn more about how this antimicrobial technology can benefit the restaurants that use Constellation dinnerware, we spoke with Dr. Glenner Richards, director of the Microban Microbiology and Analytical Chemistry Lab.

How Does Microban Dinnerware Work?

The Microban technology integrated into the Constellation dinnerware is created with silver, an element popular in the hospitality and healthcare supplies industries for its antibacterial properties.

“It is FDA approved, and so it allows us to create products that can improve hygiene during preparation and processing of food,” Richards says. “Silver is what we call a broad-spectrum antimicrobial, meaning that it has a broad scope of efficacy. It penetrates the cell wall of the microorganism [which] makes the bacteria more susceptible to environmental conditions, high-temperatures, and other treatments we use in a systems approach to sanitation. Other disinfectants and sanitizers that are used in the food industry are better able to enter the bacterial cells and to limit its growth and ability to reproduce.”

The antimicrobial substance’s ability to inhibit bacterial growth in the Syracuse China dinnerware was assessed using the ISO 22196 method, a test that considers the effect a substance has on microorganisms over a period of 24 hours. Microban scientists conducted testing on untreated and treated dinnerware to measure how effectively Constellation dinnerware’s antimicrobial-infused glaze can slow the growth of microbes.

Constellation Dinnerware with Microban

“For the untreated test piece, what we saw was the bacteria population grew,” says Richards. “It grew very, very well on the [untreated] test piece. On the treated [Syracuse China] pieces, we got a 5.1 log reduction compared to the untreated. So, while the bacteria grew on treated pieces, the bacteria population was reduced.

The data obtained from Microban’s testing supports Syracuse China’s claim that Constellation dinnerware’s antimicrobial protection provides operators with a “99.9 percent cleaner surface” because it inhibits bacteria that would otherwise deteriorate the product. Although no testing was done to gather data on the antimicrobial glaze’s ability to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks, Richards explains how protecting the dinnerware from deterioration may also impede the growth of bacteria that can lead to foodborne illnesses.

“[Bacteria create] products that will degrade the [dinnerware and] affect the physical integrity of the dinnerware, so you get cracks and crevices,” explains Richards. “What that does is that food residues can get hidden, [creating] a food safety issue. So while the claim we can make is one of product aesthetic, it does affect the safety of the product.”

Why Use Syracuse China Constellation Dinnerware?

Because the antimicrobial integrated into this Syracuse China dinnerware leads to a longer service life, one of the operational benefits it can have for restaurateurs is the cost savings that come along with a lower replacement rate for pieces that are heavily used each day.

“[Using dinnerware made with Microban] affects the financial input that needs to be made into the product because if the product has an odor, if it is degraded with chips and it has staining on it, the restaurant or foodservice establishment will need to be changing out their dinnerware more often,” says Richards.

Microban Dinnerware, Constellation Series

Microban and other antimicrobial substances have been used in commercial products for decades, but more recent efforts to extend the lives of products and protect consumers has renewed interest in manufacturing and using products with built-in protection from microorganisms. However, dinnerware and other commercial kitchen products protected by Microban or another antimicrobial technology should not be used in place of following recommended employee hygiene, food safety, and proper warewashing practices already in place to protect customers.

“It’s not intended to take away from hand washing and cleaning [or] hot foods being kept hot and cold foods being kept cold,” explains Richards. “But it is intended to support those food safety approaches. We are aware that hand hygiene is important; however, there are lapses. How do we circumvent those lapses that cause cross-contamination?”

For many operators, adding long-lasting Constellation dinnerware to their dining rooms may be part of the solution.

Ariana Keller
Ariana Keller

Ariana Keller was raised on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in south Alabama, where she learned to fish and love football. She moved to Knoxville with her family when she was 12 and later graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor's degree in English. She spends her free time playing tabletop and video games and passionately rooting for mediocre sports teams. She is an advocate for animal rescue and lives in Knoxville with her husband and their two adopted pets: a hound dog named Beau and a Maine Coon mix named Vesper.