Microbiological stabilisation is an imperative that should be designed into co-product processing systems. This is essential in order to avoid the growth of micro-organisms, which could have two major implications. Firstly, the micro-organisms may utilise or convert some of the co-products and hence diminish yields or corrupt the process (essentially, act as spoilage organisms). Secondly, the organisms may be capable of causing illness to workers involved in the process, or cause illness in consumers for whom the co-product is intended. Accordingly, eradication of micro-organisms or control of their growth should be an integral part of co-product processing. This chapter assumes that the co-product stream is derived from food waste and that the co-products produced from this stream are intended for consumption. Accordingly, the premise adopted is that the co-products can be stabilised by using processes or preservation systems used for food.
The strategies described below are designed to decrease the risk from microbiological contamination of co-products. These risks are that microorganisms may cause spoilage of the co-products or waste streams, or that the micro-organisms are a hazard to health and may cause disease.
Firstly, therefore, we must define the difference between a hazard and a risk:
• A hazard can be defined as a biological agent with the potential to cause an adverse health effect. In the context of this chapter, however, the potential to cause an adverse spoilage effect will also be considered.
• A risk can be defined as a function of the probability of an adverse effect derived from the hazard and the severity of that effect, consequential to that hazard. Severity might be related to the extent to which the organism could corrupt the purity of the products in the waste stream, or the seriousness of an illness derived from ingestion of the hazard.
Strategies for control of microbiological risk, therefore, necessitate dealing with the hazard. Hazards are the micro-organisms; these might be bacteria, yeasts or filamentous fungi that are either natural components of the waste streams or are introduced by virtue of the co-product processing. If present in sufficient numbers, all three kinds of micro-organisms can result in spoilage, and some types of bacteria, yeasts and filamentous fungi can cause disease in humans.
Classically, the strategies for microbiological risk management involve three key approaches, which are described below.
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