Although, many methods are used for reducing the number of microorganisms from food and food products by using both physical and chemical principles, success of any such preservation method is greatly influenced by effective, efficient and ecological plant sanitation methods.
Microbial contamination and pollution plays a significant role in food, beverage, dairy, breweries and other food processing industries. Micro-organisms are associated in a variety of ways with food and food processing operations followed in industries. The degree of contamination, type, their numbers and source of their entry during different operations in industries significantly influence the quality, availability and quantity of food and food products consumed by mankind.
Naturally occurring foods – such as fruits, vegetables, cereal, milk and related types – normally contain micro-organisms known as Normal Flora and may be further contaminated with additional micro-organisms during handling and processes. Spoilage and failures of preservation are mainly attributed to micro-organisms and their ability to grow in food and food products, as those serve as ideal media for their growth and proliferation. Food may also carry pathogenic micro-organisms and transmit diseases. Toxic compounds formed in food and food products, as a result of heavy growth of micro-organisms, often results into food intoxication disorders after consumption.
Microorganisms: Friends and Enemies
Micro-organisms are versatile in their metabolisms, and thus are used in various industrial applications. Various fermented food products, dairy products, beverages, beer, wine etc., are manufactured by food industries making use of industrially important microbial strains belonging to bacteria, yeast and fungi. How friendly are Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Lactobacillus species to us – are very well known facts to mankind.
Scientists and food technologists are continuously working towards manufacture of fermented food products under absolute hygienic conditions, making use of these beneficial microorganisms. Any contamination during such operations plays a significant role affecting both production as well as spoiling and deteriorating quality of the products.
Microbial Contamination in the Food Industry
The inner tissues of healthy plants and animals are free of micro-organisms, however, the surfaces of raw vegetables, meat and milk are contaminated with variety of micro-organisms. The magnitude of microbial contamination reflects one or more of the following:
- the microbial population of the environment,
- from which the food was taken
- the condition of the raw product
- the method of handling
- the time and conditions of storage
It is desirable to maintain a very low microbial level of contamination on raw food. The presence of extremely large number of micro-organisms suggests that some undesirable events have occurred – and that food is indeed, susceptible to further deterioration.
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