Food Microbiology and Safety

One key question in food safety is how to manufacture safe foods by minimizing the risk of foodborne illness. To answer this question, our research has focused on three main areas, namely bacterial survival mechanisms in food environments, the development of intervention technologies and the understanding of antibiotic resistance mechanism of Salmonella.
  1. Elucidation of the molecular mechanism of the Salmonella Enteritidis stress response
  2. We found that Salmonella Enteritidis, a major pathogen causing foodborne illness in Singapore, alters its membrane lipid composition during adaptation to stress instead of upregulating stress-related genes, and consequently becomes more virulent against lethal conditions. This new finding has prompted us to study the detailed mechanism of the bacterial stress response. Due to the complexity of the bacterial stress response, it is crucial to understand the molecular mechanisms that explain our observations and to use genomic and proteomic tools to find new genes or proteins involved in bacterial resistance.

  3. Application of light-emitting diodes as a novel food preservation technology
  4. Blue LEDs have very strong antimicrobial effects on major foodborne pathogens. Demonstrating the effectiveness of LEDs on various food matrices is essential for the commercialization of this technology in the food industry. Thus, the key objective of this research is to evaluate the antibacterial effect of blue LEDs on foodborne pathogens and spoilage bacteria on ready-to-eat foods for the purposes of enhancing microbiological quality and extending shelf life.

  5. Foodborne pathogen biofilm formation and its resistance to sanitizer treatment
  6. The ability of pathogenic bacteria to attach to and then detach from surfaces to survival in food processing environment has posed much food safety concern due to the increased resistance to antimicrobial agents and sanitizers compared to planktonic cells. Thus, the objective of this study is to explore the mixed-culture biofilm of pathogenic bacteria and natural microbiota formed on food contact surface in the presence of different food matrix, and to evaluate their sensitivity to sanitizers in different conditions to mimic the real situation in food processing lines.

  7. Application of natural antimicrobials from traditional Chinese medicine for food preservation
  8. Plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have recently received increased attention due to their various biological activities. One effect of many of these herbs is antimicrobial activity, which refers to the ability of a compound to inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold, or kill these microorganisms. Unlike chemical preservatives, these natural preservatives are effective, not only for the prevention of microbial food spoilage, but also the prevention of food oxidation because most herbal plants have strong antioxidant compounds. The primary goal of this research is to identify natural antimicrobial compounds from TCM and to apply them to the preservation of foods. This study helps us to design a natural preservation system for organic foods that cannot be treated by chemical preservatives.

  9. Prevalence of antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens in food supply chain
  10. Antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens are on the rise worldwide, and represent a serious threat to public health and the economy. The food supply chain plays an important role in the dissemination of antibiotic resistant bacteria from animals into the human population. The primary purpose of the study is to provide a basic understanding of the prevalence and dissemination of antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens in the food supply chain. The outcomes of this research are critical for tracing bacterial sources of foodborne outbreaks or contamination in the food supply chain.

Current Research Projects include:

  1. Application of 405 and 460 nm light-emitting diodes for food preservation
  2. Biofilm formation of foodborne pathogens in mixed culture with natural microbiota and its resistance to sanitizer treatment
  3. Identification and application of natural antimicrobial from Chinese Traditional Medicine for food preservation
  4. Prevalence and mechanism of antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens in meat products

Group member
Principle investigator: Dr. Hyun-Gyun YUK
Postgraduate student
Min-Jeong KIM, PhD candidate
Wenqian YUAN, PhD candidate
Xinyi PANG, PhD candidate
Ye Htut ZWE, PhD candidate
Xinzhi LI, MSc candidate
Sherrill Wesley JOSEWIN, MSc candidate
Ex member of the group
Nguyen Ngoc Hai Duong, MSc, 2012
Hazel Lim Sin Yue, MSc, 2015
Marta Mikš-Krajnik, Research Fellow, 2015
Amit Kumar, Research Fellow, 2015
Yishan Yang, PhD, 2016
Qianwang Zhang, PhD, 2016
Vinayak Ghate, PhD, 2016

Specific instruments and equipment for the group include:
Spiral plate and automatic colony counter, real time PCR, gel documentation system, biodrop, microplate reader, ultrasonicator, biosafety cabinets, water bath, autoclaves etc.

 

Selected Publications

  • Research
  • Research
  • Food Microbiology & Safety