Food microbiology

Bruno Pot, Marjon Wolters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter we would like to introduce the wonderful world of the ‘good bugs’. While bacteria are still quite often associated with disease, it has now become clear that without them we may not be that healthy either. Each of us carries around 1014 microorganisms in and on our body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – as many bacteria as we have cells in our body. Our bacteria bring us about 100 times more genes than we have of our own (Gilbert et al., 2018). Humans have evolved for millions of years together with their bacteria. The resulting ‘holobiont’, as it is now referred to (Baedke et al., 2020), is a perfect ecosystem that cannot properly function with only one of the ‘partners’. Thanks to large-scale metagenomic research, we now know that diversity of the microbiota is key to a proper functioning of this holobiont. A sufficiently diverse microbiota guarantees that the necessary metabolic pathways will always be present and functional under differing conditions, securing the health of the host. Diversity of the gut ecosystem starts to develop during and immediately after birth, fuelled by contacts with parents, nursing staff and visiting family members and friends. Later, contacts with animals, the environment and, importantly for the gut microbiota, with microbes from the diet will complete the ‘collection’ of essential microorganisms. In this chapter we present the earlier hypothesis that higher hygiene and reduced consumption of fermented foods have weakened the microbial diversity, generation after generation, and therefore the resilience of the gut microbiota. There is proof that this is impacting on e.g. the functionality of the holobiont, with influence on the metabolism and the immune system mainly. It is thought that these changes of the microbiota in our Western society are partly responsible for the observed increase in non-communicable diseases, such as allergy, obesity and, possibly, even with some cardiovascular and neurological diseases (Durack and Lynch, 2019). While the solution may be to educate people on the importance of a diet rich in living good bugs, the current regulatory situation is not making the communication on this very easy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplied food science
EditorsBart Wernaaart, Bernd van der Meulen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-933-6
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-381-5
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

The food sciences cover a wide area from ethics to microbiology; from toxicology to law; from marketing to genetics. Professionals in the food sector may have to deal daily with issues related to another expertise than their own and with colleagues who have their expertise in any of these fields.

The purpose of this book is to provide an introduction for (future) professionals, students, researchers, and teachers to all these different fields collectively known as the food sciences. Understanding the basics of other professionals’ expertise will improve mutual understanding and communication. It will help to ask the right questions at the right moment to the right person.

Each chapter is dedicated to one of the food sciences. It provides the basics in terms of scope, terminology, methods, and content. It is placed in a dynamic context by addressing recent developments and ongoing debates.


  • food law, food safety, HACCP, nutrition and health, food marketing


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