Molecular methods are being increasingly applied to detect, quantify and study microbial populations in food or during food processes. Among these methods, PCR-based techniques have been the subject of considerable focus and ISO guidelines have been established for the detection of food-borne pathogens. More particularly, real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) is considered as a method of choice for the detection and quantification of microorganisms. One of its major advantages is to be faster than conventional culture-based methods. It is also highly sensitive, specific and enables simultaneous detection of different microorganisms. Application of reverse-transcription-qPCR (RT-qPCR) to study population dynamics and activities through quantification of gene expression in food, by contrast with the use of qPCR, is just beginning. Provided that appropriate controls are included in the analyses, qPCR and RT-qPCR appear to be highly accurate and reliable for quantification of genes and gene expression. This review addresses some important technical aspects to be considered when using these techniques. Recent applications of qPCR and RT-qPCR in food microbiology are given. Some interesting applications such as risk analysis or studying the influence of industrial processes on gene expression and microbial activity are reported.
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