Food Spoilage--Interactions Between Food Spoilage Bacteria

Int J Food Microbiol. 2002 Sep 15;78(1-2):79-97. doi: 10.1016/s0168-1605(02)00233-7.


Food spoilage is a complex process and excessive amounts of foods are lost due to microbial spoilage even with modern day preservation techniques. Despite the heterogeneity in raw materials and processing conditions, the microflora that develops during storage and in spoiling foods can be predicted based on knowledge of the origin of the food, the substrate base and a few central preservation parameters such as temperature, atmosphere, a(w) and pH. Based on such knowledge, more detailed sensory, chemical and microbiological analysis can be carried out on the individual products to determine the actual specific spoilage organism. Whilst the chemical and physical parameters are the main determining factors for selection of spoilage microorganisms, a level of refinement may be found in some products in which the interactive behavior of microorganisms may contribute to their growth and/or spoilage activity. This review gives three such examples. We describe the competitive advantage of Pseudomonas spp. due to the production of iron-chelating siderophores, the generation of substrates for spoilage reactions by one organism from another microorganism (so-called metabiosis) and the up-regulation of phenotypes potentially involved in spoilage through cell-to-cell communication. In particular, we report for the first time the widespread occurrence of N-acyl homoserine lactones (AHL) in stored and spoiling fresh foods and we discuss the potential implications for spoilage and food preservation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Biogenic Amines / analysis
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Preservation
  • Homoserine / analysis
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oxygen
  • Pseudomonas / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • Water


  • Biogenic Amines
  • Water
  • Homoserine
  • Oxygen