Food microbiology is the area of microbiology that studies the interactions of microorganisms and food; how this association can be exploited to produce or process food; and how microbes cause food spoilage. It generally studies beneficial and non-beneficial microbes that impact foodstuffs and beverages from the point of processing, production, storage and usage. Microorganisms cause food spoilage, and they are also exploited in fermentative processes to produce a variety of foods such as single cell proteins (SCPs), yoghurt, cheese and beverages (e.g., wine, beer) among other food products. Food microbiologists are also concerned with the involvement of microorganisms known as food-borne pathogens in causing food-borne diseases and food spoilage as well. They are also at the center of preventing food spoilage by developing sustainable ways by which processed foods can be preserved and stored for long period.
Food spoilage is one of the most prevalent microbiological problem facing the food industry; and this problem have cost the food industry fortunes in terms of the amount of food products that get spoiled by bacteria and yeasts or molds on an annual basis. The canning and pasteurization of dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, and how they can be preserved to avoid microbial contamination and spoilage is also explored in food microbiology. Currently, some foods have probiotics imbedded in them during production, and whole foods have also been produced from microbial origin as well due to improved techniques in food microbiology, biotechnology and industrial microbiology.
Probiotics are live cultures of bacteria which boost the normal microbial flora of the human gastrointestinal tract, and thus improve the general health of the gut. Food microbiologists also ensure that all safety and hygienic measures are observed during food production in food related industries; and they work in related industries where they use their expertise to ensure aseptic techniques during food processing, production and storage. Knowledge of food microbiology acquaints microbiologists of the relationship that exist between microorganisms and food; and it also give emphasis to food safety, food quality and food shelf-life so that adequate measures will be put in place to develop techniques that may contain the spoilage of food especially during food production to food storage. Food microbiologists ensure a safe food supply for mankind; and through appropriate microbiological testing they promptly detect food spoilage organisms and pathogens that cause food borne diseases (Figure 1).
Figure 1: A food microbiologist analyzing food products for possible microbial contamination.
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