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Computer Program Predicts Presence of Food Pathogens

By Doris Stanley
March 21, 1997

Easy to install and easy to use, an updated computer software package can help the food industry predict the fate of harmful microorganisms in products.

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service developed the Pathogen Modeling Program to track the survival and growth of E. coli 0157:H7 and other pathogens. The program supplies a first-round estimate of the safety potential of foods during product development by industry or during safety evaluation by regulatory agencies. It gives microbiologists in the food industry and regulatory agencies a quick, accurate, inexpensive way to “engineer” safety into foods.

The user types in information on food formulation or storage conditions, including temperature, salt levels and acidity. Then the program graphically predicts the growth or death of the pathogen.

The newest version of the program--the fifth--contains growth models for Aeromonas hydrophila, Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli 0157:H7, Listeriamonocytogenes,Salmonella, Shigella flexneri, Staphylococcus aureus, and Yersinia enterocolitica. Earlier versions have been distributed worldwide to over 800 users.

Free of charge, the program can be downloaded from the World Wide Web site of ARS’ Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa. The WWW address is:

Scientists at the center’s Microbial Food Safety Research Unit designed the program. It runs on IBM-compatible computers with Windows operating systems.

Scientific contact: Robert Buchanan, USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pa., phone (215) 233-6636, fax (215) 233-6581, e-mail