Geraldine Duffy - Articles and news items
Issue 1 2011 • 3 March 2011 • Geraldine Duffy, Head of Food Safety Department, Teagasc Food Research Centre
Food safety is critically important to the public health of the consumer and the economic sustainability of the agri-food sector. The consumer wants assurance that food is safe and for the food industry the economic implications and loss of goodwill associated with a food poisoning incident or scare has increased the necessity to provide assurance on food safety.
To provide assurance of safety, foods are tested to ensure they conform to micro – biological criteria for particular microbial pathogens and / or hygiene indicator organisms. There are many challenges in the detection of food pathogens; in particular, they are generally present in very low numbers in the food (often < 100 cfu g-1) in the presence of up to one million other microbial flora.
The microbiological analysis of food has an important role in assessment of the quality and safety of foods. There is a direct relationship between bacterial numbers and product shelf life as growth of bacteria can result in organoleptic changes in the food, including off-colours and off-odours, rendering it unacceptable to the consumer.
The presence of pathogenic microorganisms on foods (Salmonella spp, Campylobacter, Staphyloccocus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7 etc.) poses the threat of food poisoning and recent publicity concerning food related health scares have increased consumer concerns regarding food safety. Owing to the economic implications and loss of goodwill associated with a food poisoning incident, food manufacturers recognise the necessity to provide the assurance on food safety that consumers demand. This is achieved by the implementation of food safety management systems such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) as well as by testing foods (raw material and end products) to ensure they conform to set microbiological criteria for certain microbial pathogens. These criteria may be set by regulatory authorities or by the customer (often the retailer).
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