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News

Preserving food by stopping bacteria blabbering

Society For General Microbiology : 14 September, 2005  (Company News)
Understanding the language that bacteria use to communicate with each other may lead to new food preservation methods, according to Danish scientists at the Society for General Microbiology's 157th Meeting at Keele University, UK.
Understanding the language that bacteria use to communicate with each other may lead to new food preservation methods, according to Danish scientists at the Society for General Microbiology's 157th Meeting at Keele University, UK.

Up to 25% of all food including crops, meat and fish are lost before we can eat them because they become spoiled.

'Losing as much as a quarter of all the food we produce is a tremendous waste,' says Professor Lone Gram from the Danish Institute for Fisheries Research. 'The loss is caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria which spring into action immediately after harvest and start growing on our food. We may see this as slime, smell it as unpleasant gases or notice off-flavours.'

According to the researchers some foods become spoiled through a complex process which starts when the bacteria begin talking to each other. They use communication signals to sense when there are enough of them, and then they can change the way they behave and the chemicals they secrete to attack the foodstuffs.

'Bacteria have a social life. Some fight each other, and others communicate,' says Professor Gram. 'Bacteria grow in most of our foods, and some foods rot because the bacteria have decide to change their behaviour. By communicating with each other they can speed up the way they degrade foods such as vegetables.'

If we understand this bacterial language we may be able to develop new food preservation methods because we may be able to prevent their communication. In the future the research could also help control bacteria in other situations such as when they infect a person, leading to new medications.
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