Microbial Aspects of Food Spoilage and Quality

During handling, harvesting and processing operations food may become contaminated with a wide range of microorganisms. Subsequently, during storage and distribution only a small fraction of these will develop and cause serious deterioration. Which microbes will develop or what biochemical reactions occur is dependent upon food derived or environmental factors. Spoilage of food may be caused by a wide range of reactions including some that are mainly physical or chemical, others due to action of enzymes or microbes. The primary factors associated with food spoilage are associated with intrinsic properties of food which include endogenous enzymes, substrates, sensitivity for light, oxygen and cross contamination during slaughter,harvesting and processing in combination with temperature abuse. For fresh foods the primary quality changes may be categorized as (i) bacterial growth and metabolism resulting in possible pH-changes and formation of toxic compounds, gas, slime-formation and off-odors, (ii) oxidation of lipids and pigments in fat-containing foods resulting in undesirable flavors, formation of compounds with adverse biological effects or discoloration. Although interrelated with the microbiological spoilage, the last category is purely chemical in nature and will, all other things being equal increase in importance with decreasing temperature. Little is known about the relationship between microbial activity and biochemical spoilage parameter under different packaging and storage conditions. Although there is much progress in the characterization of the total micro flora and metabolites developing during spoilage, not much is known about the identification of specific microbes in relation to food composition.
Food spoilage is the process in which food deteriorates to the point that it is not edible to humans or its quality of edibility becomes reduced. Various external forces are responsible for the spoilage of food. Various bacteria can be responsible for the spoilage of food. When bacteria breaks down the food, acids and other waste products are created in the process. While the bacteria itself may or may not be harmful, the waste products may be unpleasant to taste or may even be harmful to one's health. Yeasts can be responsible for the decomposition of food with a high sugar content. The same effect is useful in the production of various types of food and beverages, such as bread, yogurt, cider, and alcoholic beverages. Signs of food spoilage may include an appearance different from the food in its fresh form, such as a change in colour, a change in texture, an unpleasant odour, or an undesirable taste. The item may become softer than normal. If mold occurs, it is often visible externally on the item.
  • Spoilage and HACCP
  • Quantitative detection and indentification methods for microbial spoilage
  • Detection, indentification and enumeration methods for spoilage yeasts
  • Detection, indentification and enumeration methods for spoilage molds
  • Modelling microbial food spoilage
  • Determining the stability and self-life of foods
  • Managing microbial food spoilage
  • Conditions for microbial growth and enzyme action
  • Food product integrity and spoilage testing

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