Food microbiology

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Food safety
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Critical factors
Bacterial pathogens
Viral pathogens
Parasitic pathogens

Food microbiology is the study of the microorganisms that inhibit, create, or contaminate food. This includes the study of microorganisms causing food spoilage; as well as, pathogens that may cause disease especially if food is improperly cooked or stored. Those used to produce fermented foods such as cheese, yogurt, bread, beer, and wine. Then those researchers with other useful roles such as producing probiotics. [1] [2] [3] [4]


Food safety

A microbiologist working in a biosafety laboratory tests for high risk pathogens in food. FDA microbiologist working in a biosafety laboratory tests for high risk pathogens in food.jpg
A microbiologist working in a biosafety laboratory tests for high risk pathogens in food.

Food safety is a major focus of food microbiology. Numerous agents of disease and pathogens are readily transmitted via food which includes bacteria and viruses. Microbial toxins are also possible contaminants of food; However, microorganisms and their products can also be used to combat these pathogenic microbes. Probiotic bacteria, including those that produce bacteriocins can kill and inhibit pathogens. Alternatively, purified bacteriocins such as nisin can be added directly to food products. Finally, bacteriophages, viruses that only infect bacteria can be used to kill bacterial pathogens. [5] Thorough preparation of food, including proper cooking, eliminates most bacteria and viruses. However, toxins produced by contaminants may not be liable to change to non-toxic forms by heating or cooking the contaminated food due to other safety conditions.


Fermentation is one of the methods to preserve food and alter its quality. Yeast, especially Saccharomyces cerevisiae , is used to leaven bread, brew beer and make wine. Certain bacteria, including lactic acid bacteria, are used to make yogurt, cheese, hot sauce, pickles, fermented sausages and dishes such as kimchi. A common effect of these fermentations is that the food product is less hospitable to other microorganisms, including pathogens and spoilage-causing microorganisms, thus extending the food's shelf-life. Some cheese varieties also require molds to ripen and develop their characteristic flavors.

Microbial biopolymers

Several microbially produced biopolymers are used in the food industry. [6]


Alginates can be used as thickening agents. [7] Although listed here under the category 'Microbial polysaccharides', commercial alginates are currently only produced by extraction from brown seaweeds such as Laminaria hyperborea or L. japonica .

Poly-γ-glutamic acid

Poly-γ-glutamic acid (γ-PGA) produced by various strains of Bacillus has potential applications as a thickener in the food industry. [8]

Food testing

Food microbiology laboratory at the Faculty of Food Technology, Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies. LUA, Faculty of Food Technology Food microbiology laboratory.jpg
Food microbiology laboratory at the Faculty of Food Technology, Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies.

To ensure safety of food products, microbiological tests such as testing for pathogens and spoilage organisms are required. This way the risk of contamination under normal use conditions can be examined and food poisoning outbreaks can be prevented. Testing of food products and ingredients is important along the whole supply chain as possible flaws of products can occur at every stage of production. [9] Apart from detecting spoilage, microbiological tests can also determine germ content, identify yeasts and molds, and salmonella. For salmonella, scientists are also developing rapid and portable technologies capable of identifying unique variants of Salmonella . [10]

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a quick and inexpensive method to generate numbers of copies of a DNA fragment at a specific band ("PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)," 2008). For that reason, scientists are using PCR to detect different kinds of viruses or bacteria, such as HIV and anthrax based on their unique DNA patterns. Various kits are commercially available to help in food pathogen nucleic acids extraction, [11] PCR detection, and differentiation. [12] The detection of bacterial strands in food products is very important to everyone in the world, for it helps prevent the occurrence of food borne illness. Therefore, PCR is recognized as a DNA detector in order to amplify and trace the presence of pathogenic strands in different processed food.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Fratamico PM (2005). Bayles DO (ed.). Foodborne Pathogens: Microbiology and Molecular Biology. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-00-4.
  2. Tannock GW, ed. (2005). Probiotics and Prebiotics: Scientific Aspects. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-01-1.
  3. Ljungh A, Wadstrom T, eds. (2009). Lactobacillus Molecular Biology: From Genomics to Probiotics. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-41-7.
  4. Mayo, B (2010). van Sinderen, D (ed.). Bifidobacteria: Genomics and Molecular Aspects. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-68-4.
  5. Sillankorva, Sanna M.; Oliveira, Hugo; Azeredo, Joana (2012). "Bacteriophages and Their Role in Food Safety". International Journal of Microbiology. 2012: 1–13. doi:10.1155/2012/863945. PMC   3536431 .
  6. Rehm BHA, ed. (2009). Microbial Production of Biopolymers and Polymer Precursors: Applications and Perspectives. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-36-3.
  7. Remminghorst & Rehm (2009). "Microbial Production of Alginate: Biosynthesis and Applications". Microbial Production of Biopolymers and Polymer Precursors. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-36-3.
  8. Shih & Wu (2009). "Biosynthesis and Application of Poly(gamma-glutamic acid)". Microbial Production of Biopolymers and Polymer Precursors. Caister Academic Press. ISBN   978-1-904455-36-3.
  9. Food Testing Laboratories
  10. Rapid Testing and Identification of Salmonella in Foods
  11. FOOD PATHOGEN DNA EXTRACTION filter paper card
  12. "Microbial Detection Identification Kits".

Related Research Articles

Food preservation prevents the growth of microorganisms, or other microorganisms, as well as slowing the oxidation of fats that cause rancidity. Food preservation may also include processes that inhibit visual deterioration, such as the enzymatic browning reaction in apples after they are cut during food preparation.

Microorganism Microscopic living organism

A microorganism, or microbe, is a microscopic organism, which may exist in its single-celled form or in a colony of cells.

<i>Lactobacillus</i> Genus of bacteria

Lactobacillus is a genus of Gram-positive, facultative anaerobic or microaerophilic, rod-shaped, non-spore-forming bacteria. They are a major part of the lactic acid bacteria group. In humans, they constitute a significant component of the microbiota at a number of body sites, such as the digestive system, urinary system, and genital system. In women of European ancestry, Lactobacillus species are normally a major part of the vaginal microbiota. Lactobacillus forms biofilms in the vaginal and gut microbiota, allowing them to persist during harsh environmental conditions and maintain ample populations. Lactobacillus exhibits a mutualistic relationship with the human body, as it protects the host against potential invasions by pathogens, and in turn, the host provides a source of nutrients. Lactobacillus is the most common probiotic found in food such as yogurt, and it is diverse in its application to maintain human well-being, as it can help treat diarrhea, vaginal infections, and skin disorders such as eczema.

Food science Applied science devoted to the study of food

Food science is the basic science and applied science of food; its scope starts at overlap with agricultural science and nutrition and leads through the scientific aspects of food safety and food processing, informing the development of food technology. The Institute of Food Technology defines food science as "the discipline in which the engineering, biological, and physical sciences are used to study the nature of foods, the causes of deterioration, the principles underlying food processing, and the improvement of foods for the consuming public". The textbook Food Science defines food science in simpler terms as "the application of basic sciences and engineering to study the physical, chemical, and biochemical nature of foods and the principles of food processing".

<i>Pseudomonas</i> Genus of Gram-negative bacteria

Pseudomonas is a genus of Gram-negative, Gammaproteobacteria, belonging to the family Pseudomonadaceae and containing 191 validly described species. The members of the genus demonstrate a great deal of metabolic diversity and consequently are able to colonize a wide range of niches. Their ease of culture in vitro and availability of an increasing number of Pseudomonas strain genome sequences has made the genus an excellent focus for scientific research; the best studied species include P. aeruginosa in its role as an opportunistic human pathogen, the plant pathogen P. syringae, the soil bacterium P. putida, and the plant growth-promoting P. fluorescens, P. lini, P. migulae, and P. graminis

Lactic acid bacteria order of gram-positive, low-GC, acid-tolerant, generally nonsporulating, nonrespiring, either rod-shaped or spherical bacteria

Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) are an order of gram-positive, low-GC, acid-tolerant, generally nonsporulating, nonrespiring, either rod-shaped (bacilli) or spherical (cocci) bacteria that share common metabolic and physiological characteristics. These bacteria, usually found in decomposing plants and milk products, produce lactic acid as the major metabolic end product of carbohydrate fermentation. This trait has, throughout history, linked LAB with food fermentations, as acidification inhibits the growth of spoilage agents. Proteinaceous bacteriocins are produced by several LAB strains and provide an additional hurdle for spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms. Furthermore, lactic acid and other metabolic products contribute to the organoleptic and textural profile of a food item. The industrial importance of the LAB is further evidenced by their generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, due to their ubiquitous appearance in food and their contribution to the healthy microbiota of animal and human mucosal surfaces. The genera that comprise the LAB are at its core Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc, Pediococcus, Lactococcus, and Streptococcus, as well as the more peripheral Aerococcus, Carnobacterium, Enterococcus, Oenococcus, Sporolactobacillus, Tetragenococcus, Vagococcus, and Weissella; these belong to the order Lactobacillales.

Bacteria are economically important as these microorganisms are used by humans for many purposes. The beneficial uses of bacteria include the production of traditional foods such as yogurt, cheese, and vinegar. Microbes are also important in agriculture for the compost and fertilizer production.

Medical microbiology Branch of medical science concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases

Medical microbiology, the large subset of microbiology that is applied to medicine, is a branch of medical science concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. In addition, this field of science studies various clinical applications of microbes for the improvement of health. There are four kinds of microorganisms that cause infectious disease: bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, and one type of infectious protein called prion.

Extracellular polymeric substance natural polymers secreted by microorganisms

Extracellular polymeric substances (EPSs) are natural polymers of high molecular weight secreted by microorganisms into their environment. EPSs establish the functional and structural integrity of biofilms, and are considered the fundamental component that determines the physiochemical properties of a biofilm.

Lactobacillus fermentum is a Gram-positive species of bacterium in the genus Lactobacillus. It is associated with active dental caries lesions. It is also commonly found in fermenting animal and plant material. It has been found in sourdough. A few strains are considered probiotic or "friendly" bacteria in animals and at least one strain has been applied to treat urogenital infections in women. Some strains of lactobacilli formerly mistakenly classified as Lactobacillus fermentum have since been reclassified as Lactobacillus reuteri. Commercialized strains of L. fermentum used as probiotics include PCC, ME-3 and CECT5716

Microbiology The study of microscopic organisms

Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, those being unicellular, multicellular, or acellular. Microbiology encompasses numerous sub-disciplines including virology, bacteriology, protistology, mycology, immunology and parasitology.

Belgian Co-ordinated Collections of Micro-organisms organization

The Belgian Co-ordinated Collections of Micro-organisms (BCCM) is a Belgian government funded consortium of seven scientific institutions, who manage and exploit a collection of microbial and genetic resources. The consortium comprises more than 269,000 publicly available strains of bacteria including mycobacteria and cyanobacteria, filamentous fungi, yeasts, diatoms and plasmids.

Pediococcus acidilactici is a species of Gram-positive cocci that is often found in pairs or tetrads. P. acidilactici is a homofermentative bacterium that can grow in a wide range of pH, temperature, and osmotic pressure, therefore being able to colonize the digestive tract. It has emerged as a potential probiotic that has shown promising results in animal and human experiments, though some of the results are limited. They are commonly found in fermented vegetables, fermented dairy products, and meat.

Biopreservation use of natural or controlled microbiota or antimicrobials as a way of preserving food and extending its shelf life

Biopreservation is the use of natural or controlled microbiota or antimicrobials as a way of preserving food and extending its shelf life. The biopreservation of food, especially utilizing lactic acid bacteria (LAB) that are inhibitory to food spoilage microbes, has been practiced since early ages, at first unconsciously but eventually with an increasingly robust scientific foundation. Beneficial bacteria or the fermentation products produced by these bacteria are used in biopreservation to control spoilage and render pathogens inactive in food. There are a various modes of action through which microorganisms can interfere with the growth of others such as organic acid production, resulting in a reduction of pH and the antimicrobial activity of the un-dissociated acid molecules, a wide variety of small inhibitory molecules including hydrogen peroxide, etc. It is a benign ecological approach which is gaining increasing attention.

Hurdle technology is a method of ensuring that pathogens in food products can be eliminated or controlled. This means the food products will be safe for consumption, and their shelf life will be extended. Hurdle technology usually works by combining more than one approach. These approaches can be thought of as "hurdles" the pathogen has to overcome if it is to remain active in the food. The right combination of hurdles can ensure all pathogens are eliminated or rendered harmless in the final product.

Food spoilage process in which food deteriorates to the point in which it is not edible to humans or its quality of edibility becomes reduced

Food spoilage is the process where a food product becomes unsuitable to ingest by the consumer. The cause of such a process is due to many outside factors as a side-effect of the type of product it is, as well as how the product is packaged and stored. Due to food spoilage, one-third of the world's food produced for the consumption of humans is lost every year. Bacteria and various fungi are the cause of spoilage and can create serious consequences for the consumers, but there are preventive measures that can be taken.

Microbial food cultures are live bacteria, yeasts or moulds used in food production. Microbial food cultures carry out the fermentation process in foodstuffs. Used by humans since the Neolithic period fermentation helps to preserve perishable foods and to improve their nutritional and organoleptic qualities. As of 1995, fermented food represented between one quarter and one third of food consumed in Central Europe. More than 260 different species of microbial food culture are identified and described for their beneficial use in fermented food products globally, showing the importance of their use.

Human interactions with microbes

Human interactions with microbes include both practical and symbolic uses of microbes, and negative interactions in the form of human, domestic animal, and crop diseases.

Branches of microbiology

The branches of microbiology can be classified into pure and applied sciences. Microbiology can be also classified based on taxonomy, in the cases of bacteriology, mycology, protozoology, and phycology. There is considerable overlap between the specific branches of microbiology with each other and with other disciplines, and certain aspects of these branches can extend beyond the traditional scope of microbiology In general the field of microbiology can be divided in the more fundamental branch and the applied microbiology (biotechnology). In the more fundamental field the organisms are studied as the subject itself on a deeper (theoretical) level. Applied microbiology refers to the fields where the micro-organisms are applied in certain processes such as brewing or fermentation. The organisms itself are often not studied as such, but applied to sustain certain processes.

Food and biological process engineering is a discipline concerned with applying principles of engineering to the fields of food production and distribution and biology. It is a broad field, with workers fulfilling a variety of roles ranging from design of food processing equipment to genetic modification of organisms. In some respects it is a combined field, drawing from the disciplines of food science and biological engineering to improve the earth's food supply.