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Int J Food Microbiol. 2004 Jan 15;90(2):171-9.

Considering the complexity of microbial community dynamics in food safety risk assessment.

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  • 1US Department of Agriculture, Office of Risk Assessment and Cost Benefit Analysis, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, 5248 S. Ag. Bldg., Washington, DC 20250, USA.


The potential for competitive inhibition to limit the growth of microbial pathogens in food raises questions about the external validity of typical predictive microbiology studies and suggests the need to consider microbial community dynamics in food safety risk assessment. Ecological theory indicates, however, that community dynamics are highly complex and may be very sensitive to initial conditions and random variation. Seemingly incongruous empirical results for Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ground beef are shown to be consistent with a simple theoretical model of interspecific competition. A potential means of incorporating community-level microbial dynamics into the food safety risk assessment process is explored.

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