Are you a cheese connoisseur or interested in knowing more about how cheeses are made? You might be surprised to know that the cheese varieties that we enjoy today are due to the diverse activities of the microorganisms used in the cheese-making process. The unique “eyes” in Swiss cheese is due to the metabolic processes of Propionibacterium freudenreichii and the blue streaks in blue cheeses are due to the mold, Penicillium roqueforti. To discuss the role of microorganisms in cheese production and how they generate the vast array of cheese textures, tastes, colors, and smells that we like in various culinary and snacking situations, the Academy convened a colloquium in June 2014 at ASM Headquarters that brought together scientists from food microbiology, microbial ecology, and the cheese-making industry.
"How Microbes can Help Feed the World" looks in depth at the intimate relationship between microbes and agriculture including why plants need microbes, what types of microbes they need, how they interact and the scientific challenges posed by the current state of knowledge. It then makes a series of recommendations, including greater investment in research, the taking on of one or more grand challenges such as characterization of the complete microbiome of one important crop plant, and the establishment of a formal process for moving scientific discoveries from the lab to the field.
News headlines often paint E. coli as a vicious bacterium, capable of causing disease and death to those unfortunate enough to ingest it. But that is only a tiny minority of E. coli, and a very small part of the story of this remarkable bacterium; its relationship to human health and the food we eat is much more complex. Not all E. coli are bad - in fact most are not - and some are even beneficial. On September 1st 2011, the American Academy of Microbiology convened an expert panel of microbiologists, food safety experts, and bacteriologists to develop a more accurate picture of this often maligned bacterium. This report, the product of that meeting, tells the larger story of E. coli: its role in human health, in food, and even in our understanding of our own biology.
“Global Food Safety: Keeping Food Safe from Farm to Table,” is based on a colloquium convened by the Academy in 2009. This report reviews the current state of affairs in microbiological food safety around the world. It is extremely challenging to know how many people are made sick by food, which foods are at fault, which pathogens are most widespread or dangerous, and where those pathogens entered the food production system. In such a situation, where should research, prevention and education efforts be directed? In this report, each step in our complicated food production and supply system is described, highlighting key points of vulnerability, and making it clear that providing safe food is a shared responsibility.
Prepared by Carol Nacy and Merry Buckley.
People with Crohn’s disease (CD) are seven-fold more likely to have in their gut tissues the bacterium that causes a digestive-tract disease in cattle called Johne’s disease. The role this bacterium may or may not play in causing CD is a top research priority. This report points out that the cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, and the possible role of this bacterium, which could conceivably be passed up the food chain to people, has received too little attention from the research community
Prepared by Michael Doyle, Lee-Ann Jaykus, and Matthew Metz.
Details the ever-present threats to the food supply posed by disease, spoilage, and the specter of agro-terrorism, along with how the commitment to research in food and agricultural microbiology is on the decline.
Prepared by Richard E. Isaacson, Mary Torrence, and Merry Buckley.
Recent outbreaks of a number of foodborne illnesses have been linked to contamination occuring in the preharvest stage of food processing. The report also recommends creating an accessible international database of genetic sequences for known foodborne pathogens along with new and improved tools for detecting and cataloging pathogens on the farm.
Prepared by Richard E. Isaacson, Ph.D., and Mary E. Torrence, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Addresses the complicated questions around the use of antibiotics in agriculture. Examines the current state of research on origins and reservoirs of resistance, transfer of resistance,and modulating resistance by altering usage. Makes recommendations for surveillance, risk assessment, prudent use guidelines, management and production practices, and education.
Prepared by Eugene Nester, Ph.D., Linda S. Thomashow, Ph.D., Matthew Metz, Ph.D., and Milton Gordon, Ph.D.
Presents the case of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and its use in agriculture. Compares genetic modification of crops to alternatives and addresses the current controversy, positive outcomes, and potential risks associated with transgenic plants. Makes specific recommendations for future research, evaluation and environmental monitoring, scientific coordination, and public education.
Prepared by Stephanie Doores, Ph.D.
Analyzes new challenges affecting the safety of the food supply in the United States, charts directions for future research, and offers specific recommendations. Discusses factors that influence the incidence of foodborne disease, sampling and surveillance, risk assessment, and the food safety community.