Lactic acid bacteria and food spoilage

Ensuring food is safe and produced efficiently are among the top challenges for the food industry. Reducing food spoilage is an important objective in overcoming these challenges as it represents a high cost for individuals and retailers alike.*

Food spoilage can occur for a variety of reasons, including contamination by microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria. They are known as facultative anaerobic bacteria. In other words, they tolerate oxygen but thrive without air.

This group of bacteria often play a positive role in the food industry and account for some special tastes – like fermenting pickles or sauerkraut, for example – but they can also cause major spoilage, hurting customers’ perception of a brand or product.

Consumers expect food to have a long shelf life and enjoy the convenience of products that can keep for an extended period of time. From a commercial point of view, this is also important given the fact that considerable time can elapse in light of transportation logistics and storage before a product is consumed.

Foods that have high acidity/low pH or are vacuum-packed − like salad dressings, tomato-based products and processed meats − are particularly susceptible to spoilage from lactic acid bacteria. These need to be carefully monitored to help avoid contamination.

Undesirable spoilage caused by lactic acid bacteria includes:

  • Greening of meat
  • Gas formation in cheese
  • Bloating or exploding of vacuum sealed pouches
  • Off flavors – cheesy, malty, acidic, foul, sour
  • Slime on meats
  • Ropy beverages or dairy

Lactic acid bacteria are considered indicators since conditions favorable to their growth also favor Clostridium Botulinum, which is a very dangerous bacteria for humans. Therefore, testing, monitoring and controlling lactic acid bacteria in food production is part of a strong food safety program that can help prevent other contaminants as well.

3M testing procedure helps food manufacturers detect lactic acid bacteria in food

3M offers a test called the 3M™ Petrifilm™ Lactic Acid Bacteria Count Plate. The plate was designed as an easier, more efficient solution for monitoring lactic acid bacteria in food and beverage products, raw materials and the manufacturing environment. 

Traditionally, testing for lactic acid bacteria is a long, complicated and expensive process requiring an agar growth medium poured into dishes combined with anaerobic jars and gas packs to create an anaerobic environment. 

The 3M™ Petrifilm™ Lactic Acid Bacteria Count Plate simplifies the detection process and allows you to get true anaerobic results using standard aerobic incubation conditions. The plate has a self-contained anaerobic environment for the recovery of lactic acid bacteria, providing fast and accurate results. 

This is a great tool for companies wanting a more effective way to assess product quality and consistency and maximize shelf life. It enables recovery of lactic acid bacteria within 48 hours – 1-3 days faster than some agar methods. Compared to traditional agar methods, this 3M™ Petrifilm™ Lactic Acid Bacteria Count Plate eliminates labor-intensive agar preparation, costly anaerobic equipment, and reduces waste. Thanks to this technology, food safety professionals will have more time for other tasks, such as monitoring critical control points more frequently.  

Over the past 35 years, 3M has been working in the food diagnostic sector, developing technologies that have continually evolved to meet the equally changing needs of the food industry. 

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