Thursday, April 7, 2011


Food Microbiology

By: Abby VanFossen



Food microbiology is the study of the microorganisms that inhabit, create, or contaminate food. Of major importance is the study of microorganisms causing food spoilage.1 "Good" bacteria, such as probiotics, are becoming increasingly important in food science.2 Also, microorganisms are essential for the production of foods such as cheese, yogurt, other fermented foods, bread, beer and wine.

Food safety is a major focus of food microbiology. Pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and toxins produced by microorganisms are all possible contaminants of food. However, microorganisms and their products can also be used to combat these pathogenic microbes. Probiotic bacteria can kill and inhibit pathogens. Also, 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 be heat resistant, and some are not eliminated by cooking.



Probiotics are living organisms that, when consumed, have beneficial health benefits outside their nutritional effects. There is a growing body of evidence for the role of probiotics in gastrointestinal infections, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.3


Lactobacillus species are used for the production of yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, beer, wine, cider, kimchi, chocolate and other fermented foods, as well as animal feeds such as silage. In recent years, much interest has been shown in the use of lactobacilli as probiotic organisms and their potential for disease prevention in humans and animals.4


1 Fratamico PM and Bayles DO (editor). (2005). Foodborne Pathogens: Microbiology and Molecular Biology. Caister Academic Press.


2 Tannock GW (editor). (2005). Probiotics and Prebiotics: Scientific Aspects. Caister Academic Press.


3 Ljungh A, Wadstrom T (editors) (2009). Lactobacillus Molecular Biology: From Genomics to Probiotics. Caister Academic Press.


4 Mayo, B; van Sinderen, D (editor) (2010). Bifidobacteria: Genomics and Molecular Aspects. Caister Academic Press.

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