Food Microbiology Basics

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Ever wondered why there are micro organisms in your yogurt? Whether all micro organisms in food make you sick? Ever afraid of Salmonella growing on your chicken in the fridge? Have you ever gotten sick after eating or drinking and have wondered how that could have happened?

All in all, are you wondering what micro organisms really are and why they’re important for food?

If so, you’re at the right place. This course will answer all the questions above and more!

Why this course?

There are two main reasons for having a basic knowledge of food microbiology:

  1. It is essential to know if you want to make safe foods. You need to understand if and how microorganisms, that can spoil your food, or make people sick, can grow on your product. If they can, you need to know how to prevent them from doing so!
  2. Understanding their basics, will ensure that you can leverage them to make your food. A lot of foods wouldn’t exist without microorganisms. Understanding how these microorganisms can behave, will help you improve the foods you make with these micro helpers.

The basics of food microbiology

This course is a ‘basics’ course, discussing the fundamentals of food microbiology. In this course you’ll learn what micro organisms are and about the good and bad ones in food. For a more complete overview, scroll down and read through the different sections before deciding whether this course is for you.

mould on coriander chutney
Those two ‘eyes’ on this, non in-edible, coriander chutney aren’t what they seem. They are one of the types of micro organisms we’ll be discussing in this course: moulds.

For who is this course?

This course is for you if:

  • You’d like to become more familiar with the basic terminology used within the field of food microbiology.
  • You want to know which are the most commonly mentioned micro organisms when it comes to food.
  • You are curious to learn how micro organisms can be beneficial for your food.
  • You like to understand how food safety and food microbiology relate

This course is not for you if:

  • You’re looking for the health benefits of micro organisms. We do not focus on nutrition.
  • You want to get an overview of food safety legislation as it relates to microorganisms. We might mention some legislation here and there, but we won’t cover it extensively.
  • You want to know the current state of affairs with regards to recent food safety outbreaks caused by microorganisms. This course does cover trends and microorganisms to watch out for but no recent data.
  • You want to know the exact steps you need to take as a manufacturer to ensure your food is safe. This requires more in-depth analysis that is specific to your situation.

Disclaimer: this course offers no legal/official advice. It serves educational purposes only. If you need advice on the shelf life on your products, determining whether they are safe, etc. please consult with your local expert. We can take no responsibility for the consequence of actions taken based on learnings from this course. Food safety & legislation is a very complex topic and this course is not able to discuss all (legal) aspects of it.

Related course

Interested in more basics? We’ve got a separate course on food chemistry for you.

Moulds on aquafaba, chickpea cooking liquid

If you'd like to learn more about microbiology, there are various useful resources to go through. Some of these we've used extensively for putting together this course. If you are looking for more specific disease details of pathogenic micro organisms several of these resources may help you out.

When it comes to food disease and prevention there's a well known book, made by the FDA outlining all the most important food pathogens. It's appropriately called the 'bag bug book' and can be downloaded online.

For those speaking German, we'd recommend 'Lebensmittelmikrobiologie', a nice concise book discussing a wide variety of topics. Also a source I've used for this course, but with a lot more detail.

The resource we used (amongst others) to summarize the properties of most (pathogenic) micro organisms. The page on pathogenic micro organisms of UNL Food. is a great resource to find more information on bacteria in food.

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