BASIC FACTS ABOUT MICROORGANISMS
IMPORTANT IN FOOD SANITATION
If you look through a microscope at a piece of food, you can see thousands of
tiny moving forms. These forms are actually small animals or plants and are called
microorganisms or microbes. They are so small that they can be seen only with a
microscope. Like all living beings, these tiny plants and animals take in food, give off
waste products, and reproduce. Microorganisms are found everywhere in nature.
Some exist in and cause undesirable changes in the food or illness to the person eating
the food. This lesson will provide you with basic information on microorganisms and
their importance in food sanitation. This information is critical for a preventive medicine
specialist involved in food service inspections. As an inspector, your greatest concern
will be to ensure that conditions favorable to the growth of harmful microorganisms are
not present at Army food service facilities.
a. Fortunately, most microorganisms do not harm people. In fact, some are
helpful and even provide benefits. For example, microorganisms are necessary to
make cheese, wine, beer, sauerkraut, and vinegar. Another example is the role
microorganisms play in the decay of dead matter. Microbes break down dead material
and return it to the soil. Without these microbes, dead plants and animals would not
decay but would remain unchanged and accumulate where they fall.
b. A small percentage of microorganisms are harmful and cause disease.
Microorganisms that cause illness in man are called pathogenic microorganisms.
Pathogenic microorganisms cause a variety of diseases. This subcourse deals
specifically with those illnesses caused by eating or drinking food containing a large
number of harmful microorganisms or their toxic products. Such illnesses are called
c. Food provides an ideal environment for the growth of microbes.
Microorganisms can occur in food in four different ways. They can be found naturalIv in
food, or they may be introduced during slaughter, processing, or preparation (food
TYPES OF MICROORGANISMS CAUSING FOODBORNE DISEASES
There are many different types of microorganisms. The microorganisms involved
most frequently in outbreaks of foodborne diseases are bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Paragraphs 1-4 through 1-6 briefly describe each of these types of microorganisms.