Food safety and shelf life are of crucial importance to food producing companies for their role in safeguarding the safety of consumers, forming the image of the brand and ensuring appreciation of their products by consumers. Intensive processing and the use of artificial ingredients against microbes do not meet current consumer preferences for natural and minimally processed foods. New knowledge and solutions are required to ensure the strictest safety, longest shelf life and finest quality standards.
In addition to being safe, all food products on the market should be of high quality and not spoil before their indicated shelf life ends. This requires adequate control of undesirable microorganisms across all stages of the food production chain, including processing and storage conditions that eliminate microbial contaminants or prevent their growth.
This requires knowledge of the food production chain and relevant species, and their behaviour under stress and response to various preservation methods. It is also important to maintain realistic testing conditions, suitable research facilities and, often, high-throughput methods to screen for conditions.
We are your knowledge partner for ensuring the highest possible food safety and minimal food spoilage throughout the production chain. Key services include testing existing processes for target microorganisms and optimising preservation concepts, isolating and identifying problematic microorganisms, advice on food safety throughout the food chain, cleaning and disinfection of the process environment, and advice/testing of new product formulations.
Our expertise and research facilities
We work together with our research partners to ensure safe, high-quality food products. Our multidisciplinary teams include microbiologists, food product specialists, postharvest specialists and engineers. We have broad experience with microorganisms that affect food, such as spore-forming bacteria, pathogens including Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and Bacillus cereus, and microorganisms which induce spoilage (bacteria, yeast, moulds).
We have state-of-the art research facilities, including:
- Biosafety level 2 facilities for pathogen research
- A diverse range of lab-scale (biosafety level 2) and pilot equipment for performing tests (e.g. HPP, PEF, cold plasma)
- Research facilities dedicated to spoilage induced by fungi
- High-throughput screening facilities
Effective cleaning and disinfection of the process environment is a prerequisite for product stability and a long shelf life. We can help you test the efficacy of current practices for cleaning and disinfection and assist in the development of improved processes.
Hazard analysis is an important instrument in assuring food safety throughout the production chain. This includes new product formulations and new means of reducing food waste, for instance. We have performed hazard analyses for a range of food production chains (from farm to fork) and newly developed products for both industry and government, some of which have been supported by expert panel sessions.
Tools to screen for antimicrobial solutions
We can assist you with several tools to screen for microbial growth in different food matrices, including classical selective plating methods and high-throughput methods for growth determination in 96-well assays that use optical density or molecular methods. We can further exploit flow cytometry in combination with sorting for fast screening of process and matrix variations in the outgrowth of many different types of cells and spores. We have successfully used this methodology to screen matrix parameters in the outgrowth of heat-treated mould and bacterial spores.
Our approach not only targets single microorganisms but also includes multi-strain and/or multi-species operations within realistic food matrices. We have a large strain collection of food isolates (bacteria, yeast and moulds) which can be included in research projects.
We use mathematic modelling to describe and predict microbial inactivation and growth phenomena as a function of the process, matrix and storage conditions of food products. The models are designed to describe any synergistic effects of combinations of hurdles. Use of predictive modelling reduces the amount of experiments needed to investigate or prove a certain hurdle concept. This helps optimise the shelf life and safety of their food products in an efficient way.
Moreover, we have developed a variety of surface decontamination models, including biofilm models on stainless steel and other surfaces relevant for different pathogenic species and spore contamination to test for cleaning and disinfection strategies for improved hygiene.