Food Microbiology

The service lab offers project based shelf-life and challenge tests to establish the microbial food stability and food safety of specific products. Each test is designed in close collaboration with the customer. The research strategy is developed step by step and tailored to the customers demand.

As a plus, the laboratory is recognized within the KMO-portefeuille, allowing to receive subsidy for innovative research. This can also be in the framework of small or larger projects in collaboration with one or more companies and granted by Flemish, Belgian or European government.

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Determination of the shelf-life of food products

A shelf life test is performed with the natural microbial flora present in/on the food product. Products can, if necessary, in the laboratory be portioned and repacked under specific modified atmospheres. Microbial analyses are performed on several days within the shelf life. Based on realistic microbial criteria, the shelf life of the product at a specific temperature or temperature profile can be assessed.

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Project based challenge testing to assess food stability and safety

In case the contamination level of the target microorganism (pathogen and/or spoilage organism) is too low or too heterogeneous spread within a batch, it might be necessary to prove product stability and safety based on challenge tests. In this case, the target microorganism is intentionally added to the product and potential growth is assessed within the proposed shelf-life. Challenge tests can for example be used to test the inhibitory effect of chemical or natural preservatives, to validate inactivation processes (e.g. heating) or to assess the effect of modified atmosphere packaging.

These challenge tests can be performed with pathogens as well as specific spoilage organisms, both on vegetative cells (e.g. yeast, lactic acid bacteria, L. monocytogenes, Salmonella, etc.) and spores (e.g. moulds, Bacillus sp. and Clostridium sp., including Clostridium botulinum). The laboratory has a large experience in standardizing the inoculum and applying appropriate injury/adaptation protocols in order to mimic the production processes and the spot of possible contamination.

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Predictive microbiology

The laboratory can support companies with assessing their products shelf-life and safety based upon existing predictive models (scientifically published models). Besides, the laboratory is experienced in developing product specific models for one company or a group of companies.

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Identification of specific spoilage organisms with their specific spoilage profile

Sometimes it is useful to identify the specific spoilage organism responsible for the spoilage of a specific product. Moreover, the service lab is able to identify and quantify spoilage volatile organic compounds (VOCs) responsible for off-odors or tastes.

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Detection and sourcing of micro-organisms in end products, ingredients and production environment.

Based on extensive sampling of end products, ingredients and production environment (e.g. air sampling, surface contact method) source tracking of specific spoilage micro-organisms can be performed for a specific production plant. This allows companies to exclude the source of contamination by taking targeted corrective measures.

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Active and intelligent packaging

The laboratory can perform test on specific packaging concepts in realistic conditions for the packed food. Besides, it has the possibility to perform nondestructive oxygen measurements in the headspace of a packed food product. This can be used, for example, for measuring the capacity of an oxygen scavenger.

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Food Chemistry

The Food Chemistry lab has extensive experience in assessing the chemical stability of foods and packed foods. By using state of the art devices in chromatography and mass spectrometry, a broad range of analyses can be performed. We offer dedicated problem solving both for short time projects as for medium long projects as well as common routine analyses on foodstuff.

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Nutrition & Health

The nutrition and health team has a large portfolio of methodologies to offer ranging from bioavailability and bioactivity experiments with nutrients, bioactives, drugs, and contaminants, to human intervention work, including field trials and advanced data-analysis.

We can perform routine analysis as well as research work in the context of product development, risk-benefit analysis, survey and consultancy work in relation to public health nutrition.

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Biochemical, cellular and molecular analysis of nutrients and bioactives

The unit biochemical, cellular and molecular nutrition can offer services to research centers and companies in the field of bioavailability, bioactivity, toxicology of nutrients and bioactives. Our in vitro methods can be linked to basic screening work, but also to more complex mechanistic work regarding digestion, metabolism and bioactivity.

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Services in food and nutritional epidemiology

The unit food and nutrition epidemiology has experience with consultancy work for stakeholders involved in nutrition and health, including national and international organisations, government institutes and NGO’s. Services are offered on trial design, field work, literature surveys, and advanced data-analysis.

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Food Safety Management & Risk Assessment

Services in food Safety management and risk assessment are conducted on demand of external stakeholders active in the agrofood chain.
Prof. Liesbeth Jacxsens has a long term experience in writing guidelines to good practices or self checking guidelines (autocontrole) for sector associations.
She can also support in setting up sampling plans, risk-based sampling plans and risk assessment studies for chemical and or microbiological hazards.
Food fraud vulnerability assessment and hazard analysis are also belonging to her core knowlegde.

Learning Path Food Banks (in Dutch and French)

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