About this Research Topic
Microbial contamination of food can be due to raw materials which are naturally contaminated by microorganisms originating from air, water, soil, and animal/human carriers, or linked to food processing and work environment. Deficient handling and manufacturing practices can contribute to an increase in the presence of microbial indicators of lack of hygiene and sanitation. Improper food production procedures can induce microbial proliferation, biofilm formation and cross-contamination with consequences on both microbiological safety and quality of food. These phenomena can lead to a reduction of shelf-life up to food spoilage, or spread foodborne pathogens. The most common pathogens causing foodborne diseases in humans belong to the genera Salmonella, Campylobacter, Vibrio, Clostridium, besides of some specific species such as Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, Yersinia enterocolitica, Escherichia coli etc.
The foodborne outbreaks that have occurred in the last decades highlighted the importance of the development and implementation of preventive measures and programs aiming at ensuring food safety on one hand and constituting a common basis for the hygienic production of food on the other hand. In particular, a farm to fork approach has been applied in all sectors of the food production chain to improve hygiene and reduce all potential biological hazards.
The HACCP system represents a valid instrument to help food business operators in some intervention strategies and food safety programs and is supported by good manufacturing and hygiene practices (GMP and GHP), as well as by specific provisions for each line production, processing and product composition. Every manager in the food industry is recommended to implement a specific food safety plan based on available regulatory guidelines and standards such as hygiene legislation and good practices program.
Food regulation is designed to protect human health, harmonize the food trade within and between countries, and increase their economic well-being. The European legislation set microbiological criteria for certain microorganisms in foodstuffs together with the implementing rules to be complied with by food business operators.
According to Commission Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005 and subsequent amendments a microbiological criterion is considered a food safety criterion when it defines the acceptability of food placed on the market, while it is named process hygiene criterion when it indicates the acceptability of the production process. In this last case it represents an indicative contamination value above which improvements in production hygiene are required. Also the US Public Health Service provided a uniform system of recommendations addressing the food safety and safeguarding public health.
This Research Topic focuses on important problems with regards to the potential pathogens presence in food as well as their toxins/metabolites, resistance to antibiotics or sanitizers and virulence characteristics. Climate change, food travel for longer distances, and multi-ethnic societies can lead to emerging problems linked to food consumption. Nowadays there is a growing demand for food safety information. For this reason the adaptation of global educational programs could represent a starting point to prevent and avoid adverse events for all consumers with particular attention to susceptible populations, for instance infant, elderly and immune compromised people. Governments, food industry and consumer organizations are all involved in this strategic work to assure public health.
Keywords: Food safety, Hygiene, Pathogens, Biofilm, Foodborne disease