Microbiological criteria: Principles for their establishment and application in food quality and safety
Legislation on food safety has led towards the standardization of food productions which, together with the existing quality certifications, aim to increase the level of protection of public health. It is recognized the need for the agri-food industry to have tools to harmonize their productions and to adequately manage their quality systems in order to improve consumers’ confidence. The implementation of microbiological criteria is focused on facilitating this harmonization by enabling the discrimination of defective lots and acting as control tools at industrial level. Therefore, knowledge of the principles, components and factors influencing the efficiency of microbiological criteria may be helpful to better understand the consequences of their application. In the present study the main principles, methodologies and applications of microbiological criteria in foods are addressed for their implementation as a part of the management quality systems of agrifood industries. In addition, potential limitations and impact of microbiological criteria on food safety are discussed. Finally, an assessment of the performance of microbiological criteria at EU level in berries is described for the compliance of the socalled risk-based metrics, namely Performance Objectives and Food Safety Objectives.
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