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Section 1: Introduction


Safe food production does not only refer to microbiological hazards. There are also chemical (ie. pesticide residues) and physical hazards (ie. shards of glass). Nevertheless the book concentrates on microbiological hazards. Chapter 1 of 'The Microbiology of Safe Food' gives background information on the causes of foodborne illness, costs incurred, outbreak investigations and surveillance programmes. Foodborne pathogens are in Chapter 4. Complementing these are later chapters on microbial criteria, food safety management, HACCP and risk assessment. Food spoilage is covered in Chapter 3, and there are also chapters on hygienic production practices. Issues I have not covered include labelling and importing foods. The FDA web site of guidance notes may help in these matters.

Overview

Extract modified from the author's book The Microbiology of Safe Food published by Wiley-Blackwell

Throughout the world, food production has become more complex. Frequently raw materials are sourced globally and the food is processed through an increasing variety of techniques. No longer does the local farm serve the local community through a local shop, nowadays there are international corporations adhering to national and international regimes. Therefore approaches to safe food production are being assessed on an expanding platform from national, European, transatlantic and beyond. Against this backdrop there have been numerous highly publicized food safety issues such as BSE and E. coli O157:H7 which has caused the general public to become more cautious of vociferous concerning food issues. Whilst large organizations were wondering about the impact of the Millennium bug, in the UK the public were waiting to see the impact of the BSE 'bug' (a few hundred or a few thousand cases?). The controversy in Europe over genetically modified foods is perceived by the general public within the context of 'food poisoning'.


There are certain circumstances which require zero tolerances for pathogens. However more frequently there are acceptable limits set, albeit with statistical accuracy or inaccuracy depending upon whether you subsequently suffer from food poisoning. Microbes are traditionally ingested in fermented foods and this has developed into the subject of pre- and probiotics with refuted health benefits. Whether engineered 'functional foods' will be able to attain consumer acceptance remains to be seen.


Food microbiology covers both food pathogens and food spoilage organisms as well as organisms involved in food production (ie fermented foods). Due to the heightened public awareness over food poisoning it is important that all companies in the food chain maintain high hygienic standards and assure the public of the safety of the produce. Obviously over time there are technological changes in production methods and in methods of microbiological analysis. Therefore the food microbiologist needs to know the affect of processing changes (pH, temperature, etc.) on the microbial load. Hence this book reviews the dominant food borne microorganisms, the means of their detection, microbiological criteria as the numerical means of interpreting end-product testing, predictive microbiology as a tool to understanding the consequences of processing changes, the role of 'Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point' (HACCP) and the objectives of Microbial Risk Assessment (MRA) and the setting of Food Safety Objectives which are increasingly the focus of attention.

The Web has become an invaluable source of information and to reflect this a range of useful food safety resource sites are given in the back to encourage the reader to boldly go and surf. Although primarily aimed for undergraduate and postgraduate courses I hope the books will also be of use to those working in industry.


Specific learning outcomes


After studying the book and online material you should be able to:
  • Describe the natural and spoilage flora of foods and explain their significance.
  • Describe the major food poisoning microorganisms
  • Explain the factors which limit microbial growth in food
  • Used predictive microbiology programs for food poisoning and food spoilage organisms
  • Discuss the merits of HACCP implementation
  • Describe the application of Microbiological Risk Assessment
  • Evaluate the trends in food poisoning statistics
  • Describe the principles of food preservation
  • Discuss current issues in food microbiology such as BSE-nvCJD, probiotics and causes of antibiotic resistance

Generic learning outcomes:

  • The development of responsibility for personal time management
  • An appreciation of the use of the internet as an information resource
  • The ability to undertake independent literature research
  • The ability to record observations from experimental investigations and present the findings in writing.
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