The project will identify the factors that prevent the growth of C. botulinum on breads to ensure safe products for consumers. Proteolytic C. botulinum is a pathogenic bacterium that theoretically has the potential to grow in association with long shelf-life breads and similar products, particularly if they are Modified Atmosphere Packaged, said Campden BRI.
The organisation's microbiologist and project lead Phil Voysey said baked and part-baked goods were generally considered microbiologically safe. But they could still support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms that cause illness in humans.
“Further still, there have been cases where the flour used to make these products has been contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli,” Voysey added.
Concerns for the baking process
“This is a particular concern when you consider that baking processes are generally not designed to achieve spore-forming pathogen elimination. To top it off, these products are then stored at ambient temperatures which are ideal for microbial growth.”
Scientists on the project are looking to work with retailers and bread producers to help identify likely factors contributing to microbiological safety. Part of the project will be focused on contamination levels of ingredients used to make breads.
The project followed new research by Lloyd’s Register, which suggested two-thirds of consumers globally worried about the safety of the food they eat.
“We’re currently living through a time when food safety is at the forefront of the consumer’s mind and this is changing their buying habits,” Voysey added.
“Demand for bread exceeded 50% at one point during the current health crisis, proving it as one of the UK’s favourite staple foods. It also tells us that ensuring the safety of bread has never been more important. So, when considering its microbiological safety, no stone must be left unturned.”
The research will begin on 1 April and run for 18-months. It will involve suppliers and retailers from across the bread sector. Any companies wanting to take part in the research should email firstname.lastname@example.org
Campden BRI has explored the possible presence of C. botulinum in baked goods before, although it acknowledged at the time C. botulinum in non-ethnic breads was only a theoretical risk.
Meanwhile, UK scientists have used genome editing to reduce levels of acrylamide, the compound found in baked and toasted wheat-based foods considered a probable human carcinogen.