Food Safety and Bacteria

By the end of this series of 7 articles you should be able to explain the nature of food poisoning bacteria and their effects on food, state and explain the four conditions necessary for the growth of food poisoning bacteria, name the temperatures of the temperature danger zone and state its importance in relation of food storage, give examples of high risk foods and have an initial familiarity with the names of food poisoning bacteria and how they affect food safety.

Bacteria are responsible for 80% of all food poisoning outbreaks.

So what effects do food poisoning bacteria have on food? Do they affect the colour, taste, texture and appearance? Actually, food which is contaminated with food poisoning bacteria smells looks and tastes normal. The type of bacteria that affect the taste, colour, smell and texture of food are known as spoilage bacteria.

Spoilage bacteria affect food in the following way:

Discolouration, texture change, off odours, damage to packaging, unusual taste, mould growth, slime and stickiness and the production of gas such as carbon dioxide or hydrogen. If these gases occur inside a sealed can they are classed as blown, which means the bulging of cans due to the increase in gas. You can also have blown packs such as bag in the box wine which can expand to the size of a large football. Spoilage bacteria do not usually cause illness and therefore does not affect food safety as do pathogens.

What are bacteria, where do they come from, how to they interact with us?

Bacteria are living organisms, much like us. Humans are living organisms, bacteria are a lot smaller, in fact they are microscopic, you can only see them with the aid of a microscope. Bacteria are very similar to us, some scientists say we have evolved from bacteria. Their cellular processes and cellular contents are very similar to ours. Bacteria are found everywhere. The four major areas to find bacteria are, on and in the soil, water supplies, faeces and raw meat. The major repository of bacteria on the planet is soil. The majority of bacteria are harmless. Without many microorganisms we would not be able to survive. Bacteria have many generic names including pathogenic bacteria, pathogens, and germs. These three names apply to bacteria that cause illness and have a significant effect on food safety. Pathos is the Greek word for illness and therefore pathogens and pathogenic apply to bacteria that cause illness. Microorganisms and microbes apply to all bacteria, good and bad.

For further information on Food Hygiene Courses go to Food Safety Training.