Microbiology and Food Safety
Food microbiology is a core concern for the production of wholesome food. The Food Microbiology and Safety Group consists of seven members of academic staff leading 30 research and support staff that undertake fundamental and applied research in support of the food industry. Research interests include the investigations of the roles of microorganisms in foodborne disease, food production, preservation and spoilage. We have a wide expertise base with experience of working with bacteria, fungi and viruses associated with food and beverage production. We have a project based approach such that we can mobilise the skills of colleagues in the Division of Food Sciences and the wider University to forge multi-disciplinary teams to address fundamental research questions or overcome industrial problems. We also participate in extensive collaborative research with colleagues at other industrial and academic centres.
The team is led by the following academic members of staff: Ian Connerton – Professor of Food Safety, Chris Dodd- Professor of Food Microbiology, Dr. Cath Rees – Associate Professor, Dr. Phil Hill , Associate Professor and Reader in Molecular Microbiology, Dr Jon Hobman – Associate Professor of Microbiology, Dr. Ken Mellits – Lecturer in Virology.
A common theme is the survival and adaptive responses of microorganisms to a wide array of environmental stresses imposed in the food chain. These include how the environmental cycling of microorganisms can influence the microflora of farm produce, and the colonisation of livestock. Post-farm gate of particular interest are the inimical processes imposed under food processing and preservation regimes, and how these will modify the interaction and survival of microflora within food products, packaging materials and on plant infrastructure for factory operations. Such information may then be used to formulate microbiological risk assessments and are key to the development of HACCP (hazard analysis critical control points) for food production processes.
Plates showing cultures of Salmonella
Research directed at new approaches for product decontamination is another common theme within the Group, through the use of novel physical methods and the development of biocontrol agents, such as bacteriophage and bacteriocins, that are directed to selectively exclude unwanted microflora from the food chain to improve food safety and assure quality.
Transmission electron micrograph of a bacteriophage penetrating the bacterial food pathogen