Script: Questions from the Hotline - Spoilage Bacteria
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service
Food Safety at home podcast series. These podcasts were
designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and
prepares meat, poultry and processed egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging
from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry and
processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods safe
during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to "Food Safety at Home." My name is Gertie Hurley from
the Food Safety Education Staff of FSIS. I’m your host for this week’s
segment. Safe handling, preparation, and storage of food are essential
in preventing foodborne illness. In view of this, we can sometimes
be confused about “spoilage bacteria.”
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is staffed with food safety specialists
with backgrounds in home economics, nutrition and food technology.
Everyday the hotline receives calls from consumers seeking answers
to their questions on food safety, foodborne illnesses and more.
One topic that receives a lot of attention is “spoilage bacteria”.
With us today is Kathy Bernard from the hotline staff.
Kathy, tell us, what are spoilage bacteria?
Spoilage bacteria are microorganisms that are too small to
be seen without a microscope. They cause food to deteriorate and develop
unpleasant odors, tastes, and textures. These one-celled microorganisms
can cause fruits and vegetables to get mushy or slimy, or meat to
develop a bad odor.
Spoilage bacteria are microorganisms that are too small to be seen
without a microscope. They cause food to deteriorate and develop unpleasant
odors, tastes, and textures. These one-celled microorganisms can cause
fruits and vegetables to get mushy or slimy, or meat to develop a
Can spoilage bacteria make people sick?
Most people wouldn’t choose to eat spoiled food. However, if they
did, they probably wouldn’t get sick.
The type of bacteria that cause illness are pathogenic bacteria. They
grow rapidly in the "danger zone" – the temperatures between
40 and 140 °f – and don’t generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance
of food. Food that’s left too long at unsafe temperatures could be
dangerous to eat, but smell and look just fine. E. Coli o157:h7,
campylobacter, and salmonella are examples of pathogenic
How do bacteria spoil food?
There are many bacteria that can spoil food. Some can grow at low
temperatures in the refrigerator. Others grow well at room temperature
and in the "danger zone." bacteria will grow anywhere they have access
to nutrients and water. Under the correct conditions, spoilage bacteria
can grow rapidly and in some cases, they can double their numbers
in as little as 20 minutes.
The large number of organisms and their waste products cause the undesirable
changes in odor, taste, and texture that we associate with spoiled
Where can consumers find more information on bacteria and other food
Consumers may call USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline and speak to our
food safety specialists at
1-888-MPHOTLINE. That number again is 1-888-674-6854.
FSIS also has an automated online system. Can you tell our listeners
Yes. For those who prefer to ask their questions online, we have “Ask
Karen.” “Ask Karen” is an automated response system, available 24
hours a day. Karen answers questions about the prevention of foodborne
illness, as well as the safe handling, preparation, and storage of
meat, poultry, and egg products. To ask Karen a question, click on
www.askkaren.gov. That’s www.askkaren.gov.
Consumers can also obtain food safety information from the FSIS Web
site at www.fsis.usda.gov.
That's it for this week. We have been talking to Kathy Bernard from
the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Thank you Kathy. I am Gertie Hurley
and I’d like to thank you for joining us for this episode of "food
safety at home" and remember, “be food safe.”
Well, that’s all for this time. Thanks for joining us today
for another episode of food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free
meat and poultry hotline at 1-888-mphotline. That’s
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our
virtual representative "ask karen" at
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your
comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for tuning in.