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Food safety

Food-Borne Microbial Virulence

Project responsibles
Dr. Jenny Schelin
Dr. Ed van Niel

Today the formulation of food safe for human consumption is based on the inhibition and/or elimination of microorganisms; for example by heat treatment or the use of chemical preservatives. Data about microbial growth and inactivation, expressed as microbial numbers, is currently used to assess the risk of food-borne illness. However, we and others have recently shown that food-borne pathogens can express virulence even under conditions that do not favour microbial growth and, conversely, that pathogens may grow under conditions that do not favour virulence expression. Thus, in order to formulate safe food, data about microbial virulence is required to complement already existing knowledge on microbial survival in food sources. Improved understanding of how environmental factors affect the microbial virulence expression in foods will enable us to formulate new strategies for food formulation, food preservation and risk assessment. Knowledge about the nature, regulation, and mechanism of action of virulence determinants is indispensable for the prevention of food-borne diseases and for the innovation of novel control strategies.

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