Food Microbiology Research
Food microbiology encompasses both the safety and quality of all kinds of foods, from fresh produce and meats to foods that have been processed and packaged. Food microbiology research at Texas A&M includes work on the detection and quantification of foodborne pathogens, the development of new antimicrobial interventions, the roles of bacteriophages in food safety and human health, food fermentations, and the microbial communities associated with foods. Our work also looks at food safety from a “One Health” perspective, from its production on the farm to its consumption.
The microbiological safety of foods is challenged by the contamination and spread of microbial pathogens during food production, harvest, and post-harvest handling. A systematic approach is required to prevent contamination during manufacturing, eliminate pathogens through rigorous sanitation and antimicrobial interventions in food processing establishments, or reduce pathogen levels through controlled processing. The food microbiology research program within the Department addresses all these three areas by studying the dynamics of microbial pathogen transmission from the farm-to-plate approach, quantifying, and validating the efficacy of food processing measures to eliminate or reduce pathogens, and ultimately protecting food safety for both humans and animals. Research methods are varied and utilize multi-disciplinary approaches, including applied microbiology, multi-omics, bioinformatics, predictive and mathematical modeling, molecular and immunological pathogen detection/identification, environmental monitoring, and risk assessment.
Graduate programs at the MS and Ph.D. levels are available, including an MS-level Graduate Certificate in Food Safety. Graduate students conducting food microbiology research gain essential skills in microbiological analysis, data analysis and interpretation, experimental design, and exposure to various animal and plant-derived food processing systems. A collaborative and teamwork-oriented approach ensures that students receive training on various food products and analytical methods while specializing in specific areas and contributing to their thesis or dissertation. Students can also interact with industry stakeholders and present their research findings at state, national, and international meetings and forums focused on food safety and microbiology. Our faculty also offers undergraduate courses on food microbiology, food safety, and the biology of bacteriophages.
Five chemistry and two microbiology research laboratories are in the Kleberg Animal and Food Sciences building. These laboratories can evaluate meat chemical components, including color, moisture, lipids, protein, collagen, minerals, enzymatic components, fatty acids, meat flavor components, and processed meat characteristics.
Learn More About all Animal Science Research
Currently, the Department of Animal Science is researching a variety of projects that cover issues such as animal genomics, meat science, food safety, as well as projects focusing on the major livestock species in Texas. Our research programs focus on applied science, which has an immediate application to Texas animal agriculture, and basic science, which provides the foundation for scientific information to impact further research discoveries.