Microbiology is important to food safety, production, processing, preservation, and storage. Food microbiology students use a wide variety of modern technologies from fields including immunology, microbiology, and molecular biology. Microbes such as yeasts, molds, and bacteria are being used for the production of foods and food ingredients. Beneficial microbes are exploited in the fermentative production, processing, and preservation of many foods and beverages. Spoilage microorganisms cost food producers, processors, and consumers millions of dollars annually in lost products. Lost productivity resulting from illness caused by foodborne microorganisms is an enormous economic burden throughout the world. The study of food microbiology includes understanding not only the factors influencing the growth of microorganisms in food systems but also the means of controlling them.
Students who specialize in food microbiology are expected to have sound undergraduate training in microbiology, physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.
Possible research projects include the genetic control of microorganisms important to foods, the genetics and biochemistry of bacteriophage, site-directed mutagenesis to improve catalytic functions of enzymes, the spoilage bacteria in fruit products, factors influencing growth of human pathogens in foods, and rapid methods for detecting foodborne pathogens.