The aim of this chapter is to describe the most commonly used techniques to evaluate the microbiological characteristics of honey for the purpose of identifying its contaminant flora, its significance and its control in this type of food. Honey is a product that is rich in simple sugars, minerals, vitamins and bioactive compounds and possesses an antimicrobial activity of great significance for human health. However, as it has physical and chemical properties that are unfavourable for the proliferation of micro-flora, honey can contain a large population of microorganisms from two sources of contamination—the first primarily represented by pollen, the digestive system of the bee, dust, air and the flower itself; and the second as the result of negligence and the absence of good health practices during handling and use; for example, placing honey in wooden beehives directly on the floor or the use of improperly washed honey extraction equipment, rather than equipment based on the oxidizable material, or using very dark honeycombs and storing the honey for long periods in wooden beehives. As honey is a natural product, the risks inherent to the lack of industrial processing, such as pasteurization and strict microbiological quality control, are often overlooked.
Part of the book: Honey Analysis
Some filamentous fungi are able to grow in food and produce toxic metabolites. It occurs mainly in grains, cereals, oilseeds and some by-products. The growth of fungi in a particular food is governed largely by a series of physical and chemical parameters. The production of toxic metabolites is not confined to a single group of molds irrespective of whether they are grouped according to structure, ecology, or phylogenetic relationships. Mycotoxins can be carcinogenic and cause several harmful effects to both human and animal organisms, in addition to generating large economic losses. The major mycotoxins found in food are the aflatoxins, fumonisins, ochratoxins, patulin, zearalenone, and trichothecenes, generally stable at high temperatures and long storage periods. Considering the difficult prevention and control, international organizations for food safety establish safe levels of these toxins in food destined for both human and animal consumption. Good agricultural practices and control of temperature and moisture during storage are factors which contribute significantly to inhibit the production of mycotoxins. The use of some fungistatic products, such as essential oils and antioxidants, as well as physical, mechanical, chemical, or thermal processing, represents important methods to have the concentration of mycotoxins reduced in food.
Part of the book: Cell Growth