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Lactic acid bacteria and food spoilage.

testing food for lactic acid

By 2050, the world will need to produce 70% more food than we do today.Ensuring this food is safe, nutritious and produced efficiently are 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.

In Canada, 6 billion kilograms of food were lost or wasted at the household and retail levels, accounting for 31.0% of food disappearance in 2010. In terms of beef alone, spoilage costs amount to roughly $200 million per year.2

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 of the special tastes Canadians enjoy – for 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 avoid contamination.

Undesirable spoilage caused by lactic acid bacteria include:

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

Lactic acid bacteria are considered indicators since conditions favourable to their growth also favour 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 helps prevent other contaminants as well.

A case in point

Dr. Ruby Lee, MSc, PhD, CQA, CHA, Senior Food Safety Specialist at NSF-GFTC, documented lactic acid bacteria product spoilage in the case of ABC Company which had lost over CAN $2 million due to the disposal of over 100,000 bottles of returned tomato ketchup products that had spoiled before their 8-month stated shelf life.

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

3M is launching a new 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 counts 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 is a unique solution that simplifies the detection process and it allows you to get true anaerobic results using standard aerobic incubation conditions. The plate has a self-contained anaerobic environment which enhances the recovery of lactic acid bacteria, providing fast and accurate results.

This novel product is a great tool for companies wanting a more effective way to assess product quality, ensure consistency and maximize shelf life. It enables enhanced 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 labour-intensive agar preparation, costly anaerobic equipment, and reduces waste.  Thanks to this technology, food safety professionals will have more time to monitor critical control points more frequently. The end result is better process control and a higher quality product.

Over the past 30 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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