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Food Microbiology Management

Development – To define detail, scope and purpose.

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Training participants will gain a basic understanding of Food Microbiology Management and its applications within food safety and quality systems. Basic knowledge competency will be verified through successful completion of the accompanying Food Microbiology Management assessment activity. Basic skill competency can be verified through the Food Microbiology Management competency checklist available as a resource for this training activity.

Key Definitions For Food Microbiology Management
- Bacteria: Bacteria are microscopic single-celled or non-cellular spherical or spiral or rod-shaped organisms which are present everywhere; in the air, the soil and on human skin. Many types of bacteria can cause diseases, but others can be very helpful to humans.
- Binary Fission: A method of asexual reproduction in which the parent cell divides into two equal, or nearly equal, parts, each of which develops to parental size and form.
- Biochemistry: Biochemistry is the study of the chemical processes in living organisms. It deals with the structure and function of cellular components such as proteins, carbohydrates and lipids.
- Food Microbiology: Food microbiology is the study of the micro-organisms which inhabit, create or contaminate food, including micro-organisms that cause food spoilage, food borne illness and beneficial bacteria such as probiotics.
- Microbiological Pathogens: Any microbiological entity including viruses, bacteria or other micro-organisms that can cause food borne illness in humans.

Food Microbiology Management Development
When considering the development, documentation and implementation of Food Microbiology Management within food safety and quality management systems, the following information should be considered to ensure effective outcomes:

About Food Microbiology Management
A minimum of a basic understanding of Food Microbiology Management is an elemental requirement for food industry personnel who participate in the development, implementation and review of HACCP plans and finished product testing among other food safety and quality management system elements. This ensures that relevant microbiological hazards are effectively controlled and do not impact upon the safety or quality of finished food products.

Bacteria in Food
Bacteria are everywhere in our environment. Most are harmless and are used to make foods, such as yogurt. Others are spoilage organisms that sour and rot foods. A few bacteria become a threat to our health when they grow and reproduce; these are commonly known as microbiological pathogens. Sources of these bacteria include soil, water, air, dust, edible plants, plant products, animals, animal products, intestinal tracts of humans and animals, employee’s hands and contaminated food utensils and equipment. A common misconception is that food is free of bacteria that cause food borne diseases when it reaches the establishment or after processing.

Human Bacteria
Another common misconception is that healthy employees do not harbor harmful bacteria. Healthy humans commonly have their own natural population of bacteria, and some are the variety that causes food borne diseases. High percentages of the population are carriers of bacteria that cause food borne illness. In this context, sick employees are carriers of greater numbers of organisms that cause food borne illness.

Bacterial Growth
Bacteria require nutrients. These are essentially foods to provide the basic elements for their growth. These nutrients include carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, sodium, magnesium, iron and manganese. Before bacterial growth can occur, other essential requirements must be favourable, such as temperature and the level of oxygen of the bacterial growth environment.

Bacterial growth refers to the increase in number of organisms. This process is accomplished by Binary Fission, whereby the bacterial cell splits to form two cells. Bacterial growth can be very rapid. It may occur at a frequency of every 20 minutes in optimum conditions, but not until conditions are just right for the type of bacteria involved. There are four phases bacteria go through within their life cycle. It is important to understand what takes place at each phase of the bacterial growth curve to be able to target effective control points for bacteria within a structured food safety and quality program.

Bacterial Lag Phase: Phase 1
When bacteria are introduced to food, there is usually an adjustment or lag period. During this time there is considerable biochemical activity but no increase in the number of cells. The lag phase can be from a few hours to days. When conditions are right for the type of bacteria involved, rapid growth commences.

Bacterial Log Phase: Phase 2
This is called the logarithmic or log phase because the bacteria double their number by cell division, some at a rate of every 20 minutes. This rapid growth stage is generally not appreciated until it is illustrated. The following example shows how bacteria can multiply rapidly under ideal conditions with 216 bacteria cells:
- Within 20 minutes, the 216 cells would have multiplied to 432;
- 40 minutes, 864 cells;
- 60 minutes or 1 hour, 1728 cells;
- 80 minutes, 3456 cells;
- 100 minutes, 6912 cells;
- 120 minutes or 2 hours, 13824 cells;
- 140 minutes, 27648 cells;
- 160 minutes, 55296 cells;
- 180 minutes or 3 hours, 110592 cells;
- 200 minutes, 221184 cells;
- 220 minutes, 442368 cells;
- 240 minutes or 4 hours, 884736 cells;
- 260 minutes, 1769472 cells.

This example demonstrates how starting with 216 bacteria and with a 20 minute doubling rate, after 4 hours and 20 minutes there would be over 1 million bacteria.

Stationary Phase: Phase 3
After a period of rapid growth, bacteria numbers reach the levelling-off stage as their nutrients are used up and waste accumulates. Foods contaminated by bacteria at this level and beyond are usually spoiled because of the bacterial activity and are generally unacceptable from a purely organoleptic viewpoint including flavour, aroma, texture and appearance.

Death Phase: Phase 4
At this point, the food is no longer suitable for supporting growth and the bacteria die.

Effects of Temperature on Bacteria
Because of the unique survival capabilities of bacteria, it is important to limit their growth in food as much as possible. Bacteria have a maximum and minimum range of temperature for growth, which varies from one type to the next. The following classification of these temperature ranges is summarised is provided as an example of bacterial profiling:
- Psychrophiles: Typical temperature growth range is minus 8 degrees Celsius or 18 degrees Fahrenheit to 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Psychrophiles can grow under refrigerated temperatures;
- Psychrotrophs: Typical temperature growth range is minus 5 degrees Celsius or 23 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Psychrotrophs can grow under refrigerated temperatures;
- Mesophiles: Typical temperature growth range is 10 degrees Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 56 degrees Celsius or 133 degrees Fahrenheit. Mesophiles are generally considered the most common bacteria affecting foods;
- Thermophiles: Typical temperature growth range is 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Celsius or 176 degrees Fahrenheit. Thermophiles are important to considering for processes such as canning and hot filling, as they are heat resistant.

Microbiological Cross Contamination
Pathogens can be transferred from one food to another, either by direct contact or by food handlers, contact surfaces or the air. Raw, unprocessed food should be effectively separated, either physically or by time, from ready-to-eat foods, with effective intermediate cleaning and where appropriate disinfection. Access to processing areas may need to be restricted or controlled. Where risks are particularly high, access to processing areas should be only via a changing facility. Personnel may need to be required to put on clean protective clothing including footwear and wash their hands before entering. Surfaces, utensils, equipment, fixtures and fittings should be thoroughly cleaned and where necessary disinfected after raw food, particularly meat and poultry, has been handled or processed.

If your food business supplies foodstuffs manufactured to a customer’s specifications, it is important to consider any specific Food Microbiology Management Development requirements in relation to their items.

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