Microbes and food i. Introduction
Microbes all around us

Microbes are found in every environment on Earth. Their role as tiny chemical processors is to keep the life cycles of the planet turning. The majority are completely harmless but the microbes associated with our food tend to have a bad name – food poisoning is often in the news. Yet, while some make us ill and others can be a nuisance by causing spoilage, without the activities of microbes there would be no bread, cheese, beer or chocolate. Friend or foe, food microbes are always on the menu.

In this electronic source (e-source), we are going to look at some of the microbes involved with food.


1. You are what you eat Take a look at the menu in this café.
2. What are microbes? Before you make your menu choices, you might need to learn some of the basics about micro-organisms. You can also find out how microbes get into food.
3. Food producers

The interactions of microbes with food are actually very complex, and this e-source only covers a tiny amount of what a food scientist needs to know. For background information on the three main areas of food microbiology check out these sections.

4. Food spoilers
5. Food poisoners

Further facts

If you need more information, look at the SGM database on the schoolscience site where you will find details of textbooks, articles and other resources. Two other excellent websites are:
Using this e-source
There are a number of interactive features in this e-source:

A glossary of terms: any word with a glossary entry is highlighted like that. Clicking on the word will open a new window with a definition of that word.

There is a map at the top of every page that will link you to any page in the e-source.

The buttons at the top of the page take you to the start of each section

Drop down lists
The menu (you are what you eat) and the information about the way different microbes might be linked with the foods make up a large part of this e-source. You can move around using the drop down lists. There are four of these:

last next All the foods on the menu
last next Information about microbes involved in making the food
last next Information about how microbes could spoil that food
last next Information about how microbes in that food could make you ill
In each case the blue arrows take you to the next or previous food on that list.