As people go about with their daily activities, they get into contact with microorganisms. Even though many are not harmful, some can cause serious illness or contaminate sterile environments. So, microbiological food testing is important and needed by the food industry, where human health is at a high risk of getting affected by biological pathogens, and illness-causing bacteria.
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In a quest to decrease contamination and illness, it’s important to ascertain threats to your home and office. There are many contaminants and microbial growth that might be found in water and food products.
Currently, there is an increased awareness among consumers for the safety of products and foods. Consumers’ increasing demand for appropriate and fresh products has triggered the advancement of food safety practices in the food processing industry. Furthermore, the higher incidence of the outbreak of foodborne illness across the globe has led to increasing worry and intensive analysis for foodborne pathogens. For this reason, there is an increased demand for microbiological food testing.
Why is Microbiological Testing Important?
The primary function of microbiological testing is to identify and restrict toxic microorganisms that can spoil food products. This ensures the safety of food from foodborne diseases. That means the quality assurance crew should establish a thorough testing process to identify any possible threat.
Before doing a microbiology examination, the analyst must understand the necessity, purpose, and expectations underlying the test. They also need to know the expected certainty of identifying a problem and possible outcomes that might emerge from the examination. This will assist in understanding the sampling process to be conducted, the type of samples to be gathered, the specific test technique to be used, and proper actions to be taken.
Why Conduct a Microbiology Test
There are numerous reasons for conducting microbiological food testing. They include
- Meeting the desired specifications for raw materials, intermediate and end products
- Procedure verification
- Confirming that regulatory guidelines are followed
Reasons for Microbiological Testing
While microbiological testing is among the components of food safety systems and doesn’t 100 percent food safety, it’s a requirement and integral aspect that should take place to guarantee food safety. So, microbiological testing will outline important details about the manufacturing procedure, processing environment, and particular product batch. It informs if a sampling or testing process is appropriately designed and finished under the regulatory guidelines.
Nevertheless, one should understand that microbiological food testing can’t determine 100 percent safety from pathogens, which is because tests are conducted using food samples that are a portion of the food products. Microbiological food testing helps one to ascertain that no pathogens are detected from the food sample, or know the levels of sensitivity and assurance offered by the testing procedures and sampling plans utilized.
Common Methods of Microbiological Food Testing
A wide range of methods are used when it comes to identifying and verifying the microorganisms. The common ones include culture media, polymerase chain reaction, and immunoassay.
Culture media is a special platform that is utilized in microbiological laboratories to identify and detect various kinds of microorganisms through culturing and growing. In most cases, this culture medium comprises various nutrients to support microbial growth.
Conventionally, cultural methods have been the most preferred test techniques for fresh produce and ready-to-eat products. Nevertheless, the PCR and immunoassay techniques have now become more accepted than culture techniques. That’s because the latest enhancement of advanced testing techniques and validation studies have shown that cultural techniques are not suitable for all food types.
- Cultural methods involve many methods. For identification and detection and microorganism in culture, solid and liquid culture media are used.
- Microscopes are mostly utilized to detect microbes in cultures; biochemical and serological techniques are utilized to differentiate different organisms.
- The quantitative and qualitative results of microorganisms are obtained using cultural techniques. That means a culture media method detects the absence or presence of an organism. It also offers details about the number of organisms available in the medium. Nevertheless, quantitative analysis is done using solid culture media. This is because independently growing colonies of organisms can be counted on the surface.
- Duration to achieve results ranges from 12 hours to more than 7 days
PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
PCR is a revolutionary and latest method that was developed in 1983. Currently, it’s used in biological and medical research laboratories as an indispensable method for a range of applications.
The test can detect pieces of RNA or DNA that are expected to be specific to the target microorganisms. The PCR method is based on utilizing the capability of DNA polymerase and can produce billions of copies for a unique DNA series.
- Designated sections of RNA or DNA can be regenerated
- The quantitative and qualitative results are possible, but PCR techniques are usually not detected/detected type tests where some can be quantitative.
- Test techniques can be rapid and sensitive, predominantly when paired with a cultural pre-enrichment
- Results from the test can be determined within 2 days.
- Cross reaction with other non-targeted microorganisms is rare if the technique is validated.
Immunoassay is a microbiological test that measures the concentration of a macromolecule in a solution by using an antibody or immunoglobulin. The identified macromolecule from this technique is a protein known as “analyst”. The analysts in liquids like serum and urine are measured using immunoassay test techniques for different purposes.
- Antibodies are utilized to detect and detect specific proteins that are predicted to be unique to the targeted microorganisms.
- Techniques are sensitive when paired with cultural enrichment
- Quantitative and qualitative outcomes can be achievable, but the techniques are non-detected/detected type tests and only some can be quantitative.
- Duration to get the results to range from 24-48 hours
Testing helps in preventing the spread of harmful bacteria that can cause severe diseases or death. Food testing is one of the many microbiological food tests done to help in keeping your consumers healthy and free from harmful contaminants that cause diseases. Additionally, microbiological food testing is important for people with an increased risk of infection.