Predictive Microbiology

Predictive microbiology is the quantitative science that enables users to evaluate objectively the effect of processing, distribution and storage operation on the microbial safety and quality of foods. Food microbiology has adopted novel concepts and modern methods with some reluctance. Many food microbiologists follow the “old fashioned” approach of enumerating microorganisms at different stages of food storage, identifying the major fractions of the microflora by their phenotypic characters, and building up an understanding of the shelf-life and safety of foods. However fascinating this is to the food microbiologist, it is expensive and slow, and has not led to a cumulative, structured database of information that can be interrogated quickly. Study of the effects on microbial growth of single controlling factors such as pH, temperature or water activity, resulted in acceptance that particular microbes of concern would not grow below certain pH, or below a certain temperatures or water activity. All foods contain water; have a temperature of storage and a pH value. If the growth response determined by those controlling factors could be measured, then modelled, the result would indicate the growth rate attributed to those three factors. If the differences between the calculated and observed responses were significant, then other factors would have to be taken into account. Comparisons of growth rates published in the scientific literatures with predictions from such relatively simple models for the same conditions of temperature, pH and water activity were often very close and encouraged further efforts. Gradually, using models that had been validated by comparing outputs with independent data became recognized. Occasionally it is important to have an accurate estimate of the growth or survival, but more often it is sufficient to have a reasonable estimate, but quickly. It is necessary to obtain good and quick estimations of the shelflife of foods, in which pathogenic bacteria might grow, in new product development and in risk assessment.

Predictive microbiology is a recent area within food microbiology, which studies the responses of microorganisms in foods to environmental factors through mathematical functions. These functions enable scientists to predict the behavior of pathogens and spoilage microorganisms under different combinations of factors. The main goal of predictive models in food science is to assure both food safety and food quality. Predictive models in foods have developed significantly in the last  20 years due to the emergence of powerful computational resources and sophisticated statistical packages.
  • Predictive models: Foundation, types and development
  • Microbial dynamics
  • Growth matrix: Food versus artificial medium
  • Gamma concept and the Cardinal Parameter Model (CPM)
  • Predictive modelling at dynamic conditions
  • Development and validation of predictive models
  • Implications of the error term and variable transformations
  • Model validation
  • Microbiological modelling programs
  • Application of predictive models in quantitative risk assessment and risk management
  • Tools for improving food safety and quality

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