The Web is now home to the results of 20 years of experiments into the behaviour of bacteria in foods with the launch this week of a free common database.
Thanks to an international collaboration between the UK Food Standards Agency, the UK-based Institute of Food Research and the US Department of Agriculture, the database should contribute to a more rapid understanding of food safety and quality.
"The behaviour of food poisoning pathogens and spoilage organisms has been intensely studied since the early 1980s in response to major food poisoning outbreaks," said Dr Jozsef Baranyi, Head of Computational Microbiology at the Institute of Food Research. "This has resulted in a huge volume of data on bacterial growth, survival and death under various food-relevant conditions," he added.
The new database - ComBase - is being launched this week at the fourth International Conference for the Predictive Modelling of Foods , in Quimper, France. According to the project organisers, the database already contains around 20,000 growth and survival curves and 8,000 records containing growth rates.
"It's like creating a virtual environment for every food we eat and for every food poisoning and food spoilage bacteria.
You can create an environment by entering data such as the temperature, pH and salt content - all the parameters relevant to your food product during processing, distribution, storage and sale," added Dr Baranyi.
According to a statement this week, in a future project, the collaboration partners will use ComBase to develop a new set of predictive models known as ComBase-PMP, which will produce predictions based on all the data on the site. Until then, they add, PMP, the Pathogen Modelling Program is available in the US.