Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Factors affecting microbial toxins in foods - FS1215

Clostridium botulinum produces one of the most powerful toxins known to man. It is ubiquitous in the aquatic environment and can and does contaminate food. Torry has had a leading role in the UK and worldwide research on these Clostridia for many years and its information is widely used fo producing safe products. While outbreaks of botulism are relatively rare they are very serious and should be avoidable. Food processing methods are designed to remove, minimise or at least not increase the risk of intoxication. There are however significant gaps in knowledge and , as processing changes and innovative systems are developed for different food products, there is a continous need to assess the hazards. Controls of the risk of botulism is a particular concern with foods consumed with out a prior heat treatment whether of not heat pasteurised. Special consideration will be given to the non-proteolytic types especially E, common in the marine/aquatic environment and their toxins. The key features of Clostridium botulinum are the the extreme heat resistance of its spores, the heat sensitivity of the toxins and the control of toxin production by extrachromosomal DNA and the factors affecting growth and toxin production.
1. To develop further an appreciation of all the factors affecting the survival and growth of and toxin production in order to prevent outbreaks of botulism in foods. These include chemical composition, pH , aw , redox in the microenvironment of the organism as well as the biochemical and genetic factors within it which govern the production of toxin. 2. To assess the effectiveness of anti-botulinum agents including preservatives. 3. To assess potential hazards of new products and processes and advise accordingly. 4. To develop non-animal methods for detection and characterisation of C. botulinum toxins.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1991

To: 1995

Cost: £187,500
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Central Science Laboratory