Food microbiology is the study of the microorganisms that inhibit, create, or contaminate food, including the study of microorganisms causing food spoilage, 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, and those with other useful roles such as producing probiotics.
A microorganism, or microbe, is a microscopic organism, which may exist in its single-celled form or in a colony of cells.
Food contamination refers to the presence of harmful chemicals and microorganisms in food, which can cause consumer illness. This article addresses the chemical contamination of foods, as opposed to microbiological contamination, which can be found under foodborne illness.
In biology, a pathogen, in the oldest and broadest sense, is anything that can produce disease. A pathogen may also be referred to as an infectious agent, or simply a germ.
Food safety is a major focus of food microbiology. Numerous agents of disease, pathogens, are readily transmitted via food, including 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.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.
Food safety is used as a scientific discipline describing handle, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. The occurrence of two or more cases of a similar illnesses resulting from the ingestion of a common food is known as a food-borne disease outbreak. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potential health hazards. In this way food safety often overlaps with food defense to prevent harm to consumers. The tracks within this line of thought are safety between industry and the market and then between the market and the consumer. In considering industry to market practices, food safety considerations include the origins of food including the practices relating to food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, as well as policies on biotechnology and food and guidelines for the management of governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods. In considering market to consumer practices, the usual thought is that food ought to be safe in the market and the concern is safe delivery and preparation of the food for the consumer.
A virus is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of an organism. Viruses can infect all types of life forms, from animals and plants to microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea.
A toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms; synthetic toxicants created by artificial processes are thus excluded. The term was first used by organic chemist Ludwig Brieger (1849–1919), derived from the word toxic.
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.
Yeasts are eukaryotic single-celled microorganisms classified as members of the fungus kingdom. The first yeast originated hundreds of millions of years ago, and 1,500 species are currently identified. They are estimated to constitute 1% of all described fungal species. Yeasts are unicellular organisms that evolved from multicellular ancestors, with some species having the ability to develop multicellular characteristics by forming strings of connected budding cells known as pseudohyphae or false hyphae. Yeast sizes vary greatly, depending on species and environment, typically measuring 3–4 µm in diameter, although some yeasts can grow to 40 µm in size. Most yeasts reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by the asymmetric division process known as budding.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a species of yeast. It has been instrumental in winemaking, baking, and brewing since ancient times. It is believed to have been originally isolated from the skin of grapes. It is one of the most intensively studied eukaryotic model organisms in molecular and cell biology, much like Escherichia coli as the model bacterium. It is the microorganism behind the most common type of fermentation. S. cerevisiae cells are round to ovoid, 5–10 μm in diameter. It reproduces by a division process known as budding.
Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been a prominent food in large parts of the world and is one of the oldest man-made foods, having been of significant importance since the dawn of agriculture.
Several microbially produced biopolymers are used in the food industry.
The food industry is a complex, global collective of diverse businesses that supplies most of the food consumed by the world's population. Only subsistence farmers, those who survive on what they grow, and hunter-gatherers can be considered outside the scope of the modern food industry.
Alginates can be used as thickening agents.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 .
Laminaria hyperborea is a species of large brown alga, a kelp in the family Laminariaceae, also known by the common names of tangle and cuvie. It is found in the sublittoral zone of the northern Atlantic Ocean. A variety, Laminaria hyperborea f. cucullata is known from more wave sheltered areas in Scandinavia.
Poly-γ-glutamic acid (γ-PGA) produced by various strains of Bacillus has potential applications as a thickener in the food industry.
Polyglutamic acid (PGA) is a polymer of the amino acid glutamic acid (GA). Gamma PGA - the form where the peptide bonds are between the amino group of GA and the carboxyl group at the end of the GA side chain - is a major constituent of the Japanese food nattō. Gamma PGA is formed by bacterial fermentation.
Bacillus is a genus of Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria, a member of the phylum Firmicutes, with 266 named species. The term is also used to describe the shape (rod) of certain bacteria; and the plural Bacilli is the name of the class of bacteria to which this genus belongs. Bacillus species can be either obligate aerobes: oxygen dependent; or facultative anaerobes: having the ability to be anaerobic in the absence of oxygen. Cultured Bacillus species test positive for the enzyme catalase if oxygen has been used or is present.
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.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 .
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,PCR detection, and differentiation. 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.
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.
Bacillus cereus is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped, facultatively anaerobic, motile, beta-hemolytic, spore forming bacterium commonly found in soil and food. The specific name, cereus, meaning "waxy" in Latin, refers to the appearance of colonies grown on blood agar. Some strains are harmful to humans and cause foodborne illness, while other strains can be beneficial as probiotics for animals. The bacteria is classically contracted from fried rice dishes that have been sitting at room temperature for hours. B. cereus bacteria are facultative anaerobes, and like other members of the genus Bacillus, can produce protective endospores. Its virulence factors include cereolysin and phospholipase C.
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 is the science of nature devoted to the study of food; it is often confused with "food technology". The Institute of Food Technologists 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".
Staphylococcus epidermidis is a Gram-positive bacterium, and one of over 40 species belonging to the genus Staphylococcus. It is part of the normal human flora, typically the skin flora, and less commonly the mucosal flora. It is a facultative anaerobic bacteria. Although S. epidermidis is not usually pathogenic, patients with compromised immune systems are at risk of developing infection. These infections are generally hospital-acquired. S. epidermidis is a particular concern for people with catheters or other surgical implants because it is known to form biofilms that grow on these devices. Being part of the normal skin flora, S. epidermidis is a frequent contaminant of specimens sent to the diagnostic laboratory.
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 yoghurt, cheese, and vinegar
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 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 is the study of microorganisms, those being unicellular, multicellular, or acellular. Microbiology encompasses numerous sub-disciplines including virology, parasitology, mycology and bacteriology.
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.
Bifidobacterium is a genus of gram-positive, nonmotile, often branched anaerobic bacteria. They are ubiquitous inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract, vagina and mouth of mammals, including humans. Bifidobacteria are one of the major genera of bacteria that make up the gastrointestinal tract microbiota in mammals. Some bifidobacteria are used as probiotics.
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 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 worlds' 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 preventative 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 include both practical and symbolic uses of microbes, and negative interactions in the form of human, domestic animal, and crop diseases.
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.