Microbial contaminants in food: a big issue for a working group of the MoniQA NoE project

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Abstract

Introduction

The MoniQA Network of Excellence is an EC funded project working towards the harmonization of analytical methods for monitoring food quality and safety along the food supply chain. This paper summarises both the structure and tasks of the working group on microbial contaminants within the MoniQA NoE and specifically focuses on harmonisation strategies important in the microbiological analysis of food.

Objectives

There is a need for rapid microbiological methods in order to quickly and efficiently identify harmful pathogens in food sources. However, one of the major problems encountered with many new methods is their market acceptance, as they have to pass extensive validation/standardisation studies before they can be declared as official standard methods.

Methods

The working group on microbiological contaminants aims to contribute towards speeding up these prerequisites by collecting information on food law, quality assurance, quality control, sampling, economic impact, measurement uncertainty, validation protocols, official standard methods and alternative methods.

Results

The present report provides an overview of currently existing methodologies and regulations and addresses issues concerning harmonisation needs. One of the deliverables of the working group is the development of extended fact sheets and reviews based on relevant ‘hot’ topics and methods. The selection of food borne analytes for these fact sheets have been selected based on global, local and individual parameters. The working group has identified 5 groups of stakeholders (governmental bodies, standardisation/validation organisations, test kit/equipment manufacturers, food industry and consumers).

Conclusion

Current challenges of food microbiology are driven by new analytical methods, changes in the food market and altered consumer desires. The MoniQA NoE is contributing in overcoming these risks and challenges by providing a profound platform on microbiological rapid methods in food analysis to all stakeholders and it is expected that strong interaction within the network and beyond will foster harmonization.

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