Food Safety and Microbiology
Graduate students in Food Microbiology study microorganisms and their reaction to foods and their environments. Areas of emphasis are: understanding of the ecology for microbial spoilage and pathogenicity, predicting microbial growth and death with computer models, developing new detection methods, finding and using natural microbial inhibitors, understanding the genetic basis for pathogenicity, and the reaction of microorganisms to new preservation methods.
Food Microbiologists study the interactions between food, microorganisms and their environment to ensure food safety, quality, and value. They study methods to preserve foods and prevent them from spoiling the food production chain. They study the ecology to determine how the microorganisms get into foods, what can be done to control microbial growth in foods or why pathogenic microorganisms are a problem in particular foods.
Food Microbiologists also develop new and rapid methods to detect pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms in foods. They study the genetic make-up of microorganisms to determine why bacteria have virulence and cause disease, how fermentative properties can be stabilized, and how these traits can be used to develop rapid methods for individual genus and species identification. They use various techniques to study macromolecules, manipulate biological processes, or make other biotechnological transformations.
Food Microbiologists are employed by food processing industries, governmental agencies, trade associations, academic institutions, analytical laboratories, and related organizations. Within the food processing industry, a Food Microbiologist may be a microbial team member or manager within a research and development group, a member or manager of microbiological services for the company's processing plants, a HACCP team, technical services, or a QC/QA/sanitation group. In regulatory agencies, food microbiologists can work for the FDA, USDA, EPA, or state/local health departments in policy development, regulatory compliance, food plant inspections, training programs, or research groups.
Food Microbiologists in trade associations do research, coordinate training programs, consult with food industries, audit and trouble shoot for food processing industries, or render related services. In academic institutions, Food Microbiologists are involved in teaching, research, and extension. Food Microbiologists associated with analytical laboratories can be program leaders or directors of microbial analysis, coordinate training programs, do research on microbial detection, consults with food processing industries on problems, and conduct food company audits for HACCP/ISO 9000 or similar programs.
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