Bacteria can grow in food especially in conditions favorable to them. But which food item is ideal for bacterial growth? This is the question that I want to clear with you guys.
Several factors that affect the growth of bacteria include water, pH, and nutrients. While some bacteria are beneficial, others can be harmful to your health. After scouring the internet for answers, I thought that I’m going to share what I discovered so far.
To the question, “Which food item is ideal for bacterial growth?”, the answer is temperature control for safety (TCS) food item. TCS food, like dairy products, eggs, meat, and poultry support the growth of bacteria, hence ideal for bacterial growth. Other TCS food items are milk, shellfish, crustaceans, baked potatoes, sprouts, sliced melons, cut leafy vegetables, tofu, and fish.
TCS food refer to food items that are more likely to become unsafe. As compared to other food items, TCS food needs time and temperature controls to inhibit the development of bacteria. This food constitutes protein, moisture, and has a slightly acidic or neutral pH.
Factors Affecting The Growth Of Bacteria
Bacteria require water to break down the food they consume for growth. The water not bound to food molecules can aid the development of bacteria. This unbound water is known as water availability or water activity.
Don’t confuse water activity with moisture content because foods may have similar moisture content but different water activities. Foods that have more than 0.95 water activity are more likely to support bacterial growth. Check the water availability of some foods here.
Some bacteria, like aerobes, need oxygen to thrive while anaerobes can only live without oxygen. Most foodborne microbes are facultative, which means that they can live with or without oxygen.
All bacteria need nutrients or energy source to grow. Several nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, sugar, and starch. Dairy and milk products are usually rich in nutrients, making them ideal for bacterial growth.
Bacteria tends to grow more rapidly when held between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature range is also known as the danger zone as bacteria grow more rapidly when they spend more time in this zone.
pH measures the alkalinity or acidity of a product. It ranges from 0 (highly acidic) to 14 (highly alkaline). The neutral pH is 7, where most bacteria grow best. Foods with below 4.5 pH levels are not easily contaminated by bacteria but are more prone to contamination of yeasts and molds.
The Signs And Dangers Of Food Spoilage
Food spoilage can be easily determined by its taste, smell, and appearance. Spoiled foods tend to produce an unpleasant odor and taste. When bacteria has grown on the food, the texture of the food tends to change.
What’s once firm becomes soft, especially on certain vegetables. Sometimes the color also changed which is a result of enzymatic deterioration. Meat that has gone bad tends to have a slimy appearance while liquids tend to get cloudy.
Eating food that contains bacteria may result in food poisoning. This serious condition is often manifested by several symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Preventing Bacterial Growth
- Refrigerate Foods
Keep foods with high water activity in the refrigerator. Examples of these high water activity foods are fresh foods, soft cheeses, and cured meat. Semi-moist foods, like puddings and fruitcakes, can be stored at room temperature to control water activity.
Learn how to store your food in the refrigerator here:
Also, check this Foodkeeper App to know how to store food properly.
- Keep The Food Out From Danger Zone
To keep the food out of the danger zone, United States of Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests never leaving the food out the refrigerator for more than two hours. If your room temperature is more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then food shouldn’t sit more than one hour.
You should also cook meat and poultry no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven. Any leftovers should be stored in shallow containers for faster and cooling and refrigerate at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Reheat food thoroughly until its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Which food item is ideal for bacterial growth? Well, you know the answer it’s TCS food, like milk, dairy, and meat. This food item is more likely to go unsafe, hence proper handling, storage, and cooking should be practiced at all times. Thanks for this new information, I can already observe proper caution when I buy any of these food items.
If you have some questions or stories to tell about food spoilage due to bacterial growth, let us know in the comments section. Don’t forget to share this article if you like it.