Dr. ir. Els Debonne

elsdebonne-jpgPostdoctoral Assistant

Els Debonne is a postdoctoral assistant working on the subject of cereal and bakery technology in the Research Unit of Cereal and Bakery technology at Ghent University (Prof. Mia Eeckhout). She combines this field of research with food mycology at Ghent University (Mycolab, Prof. Frank Devlieghere and Prof. Mia Eeckhout).


In 2014 she obtained the degree of MSc in Bioscience Engineering: Food Science and Technology from Ghent University in Belgium. Thereafter she started her PhD within the department of Food Technology, Safety and Health. She combined research in the field of bread technology and food mycology and successfully defended her PhD in 2020, entitled Exploring natural antifungal preservation strategies to extend bread shelf-life: From baking technology to biopreservation. As a teaching assistant at Ghent University, she is involved in supervising student theoretical and practical sessions of Food Microbiology,  Food Chemistry and Rheology.
Els her research interests lie in the field of cereal and baking technology, food microbiology and preservation, with a special focus on mould and yeast spoilage. Her work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals, and has been presented at multiple international conferences.

PhD abstract:

Mould spoilage of bakery products is a serious problem resulting in a significant volume of food waste. Moreover, the food industry takes a keen interest in replacing chemical preservatives by natural alternatives in order to meet the consumers’ changing requirements as well as the clean label trend. This study focused on exploring natural water or oil soluble compounds with antifungal activity in bread and various baking technologies to reduce fungal growth of primarily Penicillium spp. and Aspergillus spp. The technologies considered included variations in par-baking conditions and the production of composite bread. The antimicrobial efficacy of antifungal compounds was assessed through in-vitro studies and predictive growth/no-growth models. The screening assays were macro-dilution (cf. agar dilution assays) and micro-dilution assays (cf. dilution assay in 96-well plates). Moreover, the effect of the undissociated acid fraction of weak organic acids such as those found in sourdough (e.g. acetic, lactic and phenyllactic acid), expressed in the aqueous phase of bread, became apparent. This provided additional information about the mode of action of the acids, enabling a better shelf-life prediction. Furthermore, the natural compounds were tested in actual dough and bread, assessing the technological quality of both dough and bread. In addition, the antifungal activity of the compounds was investigated by shelf-life and challenge tests. Throughout this work, it was shown that by adjusting the par-baking conditions, bread composition and packaging, it is possible to extend the shelf-life of par-baked bread in a natural way.


Dr. Ir. Els Debonne