Virtual Laboratory Connects Researchers, Industry to Microbial
By Jim Core
February 5, 2002
A new virtual laboratory
web site established today by the Agricultural Research Service will help
facilitate research cooperation among scientists studying a key food safety
issue--how pathogenic bacteria behave in food under varying environmental
The ARS Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pa., established the
site to form partnerships that advance the use of predictive models of
microorganisms in food. The web site is called the Center of Excellence in
Microbial Modeling and Informatics (CEMMI).
Predictive microbiology is a growing field that estimates the behavior of
microorganisms in response to environmental conditions, including food
production and processing operations from the farm to table. For more than 15
years, ERRC has developed mathematical models to estimate the behavior of
bacterial pathogens in food.
CEMMI is intended to network the expertise of ERRC and other laboratories to
researchers, and to link industry with model designers for solutions to current
food safety and quality problems.
According to CEMMI Coordinator Mark L. Tamplin, the center hopes to enhance
the way predictive models are developed and then applied, while ensuring that
users properly interpret results. Predictive microbiology can also benefit from
defining existing gaps in research data and enhancing uniformity in
experimental designs, he says.
Currently, one CEMMI project between the United Kingdoms
Institute for Food Research and ERRC
will result in an online data warehouse called ComBase that will
provide scientists with vast information to develop and validate models of
microorganisms in food.
In another CEMMI project, ERRC and Decisionalysis Risk Consultants, Inc., of
Ottawa, Ontario Canada, are working to develop an expert system--a
type of computer program that guides predictive microbiology users in making
balanced and reasonable decisions related to the behavior of pathogenic
bacteria in food. The system uses analytical rules defined by experts in the
field and incorporates ERRCs Pathogen Modeling Program (PMP) software to help users
solve food safety problems.
Interested collaborators are encouraged to contact CEMMI researchers to
address their specific model needs. ARS is the chief scientific research agency
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.