Causes And Manifestations Of Food Deterioration


Microorganisms are ubiquitous living organisms that need nutrients, moisture, appropriate oxygen conditions, and favorable pH ranges to grow. Microorganisms can contaminate our food supply from the point of production or harvest until the time of consumption. Many microbial food contaminants are native to the soil or animal environment from which the food is derived, and many are added unintentionally through handling practices. The components of most foodstuffs (carbohydrates, proteins, etc) serve as ideal nutrients for the growth of microorganisms and this growth leads to potentially harmful populations of microorganisms, potentially harmful buildup of microbial metabolites, for example, toxins, enzymes, polysaccharides, or pigments, and a deterioration in food quality resulting from the metabolism of food constituents, for example, amino acid or fatty acid release from proteins or lipids. Microorganisms important to food deterioration include bacteria, yeasts, and molds. Some bacteria can produce spores, a dormant form that is capable of withstanding long periods under conditions in which the vegetative form could not grow. These spores can then germinate when conditions once again become favorable. Spores are much more heat resistant than their vegetative form, and hence during processing, if elimination of all bacteria is a goal, then the heat resistance of the spore must be targeted.

It is important to distinguish between pathogenic and nonpathogenic species. Pathogens are organisms that cause disease, and a number of human pathogens can be transmitted through food. They include Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium botulinum, Listeria monocytogenes, and many others. Mycotoxins are fungal metabolites, some of which are potentially toxic or carcinogenic to humans, for example, aflatoxin from Aspergillus flavus. It is essential that all pathogenic species be controlled in preserved foods to eliminate foodborne disease. This is done by providing measures to eliminate what may be present in raw materials (eg, those of animal origin) through processing, and by providing measures to eliminate the entry of contaminating pathogens to the food supply through hygienic manufacturing practices. Most microorganisms, however, are not pathogenic but can cause food spoilage if allowed to grow, primarily as a result of off-flavors and odors from metabolic by-products. These, too, need to be controlled as they account for diminished shelf

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