Working Group 5 (WG5)
Working Group 5: Applications in food and drink manufacture and processing
Many bacteria and fungi are found in raw food ingredients. To ensure microbiological safety and shelf life of finished foods and beverages, the food industry uses processing and preservation methods to limit survival and growth of pathogenic and spoilage organisms. These “hurdles” include reduced water activity (osmotic stress), reduced temperature (cold stress) and low pH through the addition of weak carboxylic acids (acid stress)4. Despite the efficacy of acids at preventing the outgrowth of important microbial pathogens, some survive and compromise food safety or cause highly wasteful food spoilage. In addition, European consumers increasingly desire minimally processed “natural” foods.
Thus, there is a need for effective food preservation systems that can rely on naturally occurring compounds, such as weak organic acids. However, the inhibitory modes-of-action of these acids are not well understood. Different microbes use different mechanisms to overcome these stresses, and evidence is accumulating that even identical cells can respond differently to the same conditions, increasing the challenge of effective preservation17. Moreover, spoilage micro-organisms in foods often behave differently from laboratory strains. Using novel methods to deepen our understanding of inhibition caused by weak acids, and how food-borne microorganisms respond to them, is central to developing new, more effective preservation regimes.
(1) review the limitations in the understanding of acid-based preservation systems that are currently in place and assess the potential of the novel methods explored by in WG2 to develop improved methods;
(2) support training and STSMs to introduce new methods into the food preservation field;
(3) refine current predictive models and propose and explore routes for new modelling techniques that incorporate data from the application of novel methods, to enhance food safety and integrity.