Quantitative Microbiology: A Basis for Food Safety
McMeekin, TA and Brown, JL and Krist, KA and Miles, DW and Neumeyer, K and Nichols, DS and Olley, J and Presser, KA and Ratkowsky, DA and Ross, T and Salter, MA and Soontranon, S, Quantitative Microbiology: A Basis for Food Safety, Emerging Infectious Diseases, 3, (4) pp. 541-549. ISSN 1080-6040 (1997) [Refereed Article]
Because microorganisms are easily dispersed, display physiologic diversity, and tolerate extreme conditions, they are ubiquitous and may contaminate and grow in many food products. The behavior of microbial populations in foods (growth, survival, or death) is determined by the properties of the food (e.g., water activity and pH) and the storage conditions (e.g., temperature, relative humidity, and atmosphere). The effect of these properties can be predicted by mathematical models derived from quantitative studies on microbial populations. Temperature abuse is a major factor contributing to foodborne disease; monitoring temperature history during food processing, distribution, and storage is a simple, effective means to reduce the incidence of food poisoning. Interpretation of temperature profiles by computer programs based on predictive models allows informed decisions on the shelf life and safety of foods. In- or on-package temperature indicators require further development to accurately predict microbial behavior. We suggest a basis for a "universal" temperature indicator. This article emphasizes the need to combine kinetic and probability approaches to modeling and suggests a method to define the bacterial growth/no growth interface. Advances in controlling foodborne pathogens depend on understanding the pathogens' physiologic responses to growth constraints, including constraints conferring increased survival capacity.