Food products of animal origin (i.e., fresh, processed, and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, eggs, milk, and other dairy products) may be contaminated during harvesting, processing, and handling. Because they are rich in nutrients, they support growth of various spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms if not properly handled and preserved. Spoilage microorganisms damage product quality and lead to reduced food supplies and economic losses, whereas pathogens may cause mild, severe, brief, or chronic human illness, or death. Knowledge of sources of contamination and of the properties of foodborne pathogens allows application of proper procedures for pathogen control and enhancement of food safety. Sources and control of pathogens are addressed in this article, while major biological hazards are discussed elsewhere in this encyclopedia.
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