Food Microbiology

Food microbiology is a study of microbes which live in foods or that adulterate food. The significance of studying food microbiology is important for food safety. There are ‘good bacteria’ as well as ‘bad bacteria’. Good bacteria help in making foodstuffs like cheese, yogurt, bread, beer and wine etc. Probiotics i.e. microbes beneficial for our gut are getting quite popular nowadays. But, still bad bacteria including pathogenic bacteria, toxins and viruses contaminate food and make it unsafe for eating.

Food-associated pathogens are responsible for the death of 1.8 million population yearly especially in countries which are underdeveloped. Water and food-borne causative agents cause rotavirus, hepatitis A and E etc. which spread through the fecal-oral route. Other commonly infecting food pathogens are Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus aureus present in soil cause diarrhea and vomiting.

The microbes can be controlled by ensuring the quality of food and its safety. To control the food contamination and associated foodborne complications sanitation is necessary for handling, storage, and processing of food. The foodstuffs should be properly refrigerated and covered to avoid their cross-contamination. Appropriate drying is necessary in case of packed foods as moisture attract microbes. In food industries, physical methods are used to control the load of microbes like centrifugation which remove 90% of microbes through high centrifugal force. Filtration like ultrafiltration where filters of pore size 0.45-0.7 um are used to remove yeast, molds, bacteria, and spores. Another important method is trimming and washing, trimming is done to remove parts which are heavily contaminated in fruits and vegetables followed by washing to remove soil and microbes attached to raw fruits and vegetables. Polymerase chain reaction as the method is used for detection of various pathogens in processed items of foods.

There are however many microbes which are deliberately added to foods such as yeasts like Saccharomyces cerevisiae which helps in making wine, beer and bread and bacteria like Lactobacillus which makes curd, cheese, and other fermented dishes.

Probiotics maintain the health of the gut and help to prevent irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal infection. Microbes used are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in various foods like kimchi, curd, fermented milk and other foods etc. Probiotics include intestinal good bacteria which inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and it also helps in the conversion of dietary compounds into bioactive molecules.

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