PROSPECT: to predict the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in plant-based foods

The project focusses on the design of mathematical models that predict the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in plant-based foods to aid in the design of safe protein-rich products.

The transition from animal-derived proteins to a more plant-based diet introduces new plant-based foods on the market. To help secure food safety and identify critical parameters in new product formulations, mathematical models in combination with large databases encompassing information on growth kinetics and behavior of food pathogens are increasingly used.

The PROSPECT project focusses on Listeria monocytogenes as an important pathogen to control in chilled, ready-to-eat (RTE) products of the plant-based meat category. The European Union laid down a food safety criterion for L. monocytogenes for RTE food products. If boundaries for pH and water activity to not support growth of L. monocytogenes growth as laid down in Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 are not in place, the growth potential for this pathogen needs to be validated in the specific food product. Mathematical models that have been validated for plant-based products help to comply with food legislation and aid in the reduction of expensive challenge testing to substantiate the safety of the product.

The aim of the project is to improve mathematical models for more realistic prediction of L. monocytogenes in food systems that contain (new) plant-based sources. The following activities are foreseen in the project:

  1. Validation of the currently available predictive models for L. monocytogenes growth for food matrices high in (new) plant-based protein sources
  2. Enrichment of existing databases with new growth data for L. monocytogenes for different (new) plant-based protein sources using the MINIScreen approach
  3. Development of new models with datasets for new proteins, relevant variability and interaction between controlling factors and between organisms in predictive models for L. monocytogenes development in food

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