Microbial variability in growth and heat resistance of a pathogen and a spoiler: All variabilities are equal but some are more equal than others

Heidy M.W. den Besten*, Diah C. Aryani, Karin I. Metselaar, M.H. Zwietering

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Quantitative microbiology is used in risk assessment studies, microbial shelf life studies, product development, and experimental design. Realistic prediction is, however, complicated by different sources of variability. The final concentration of microorganisms at the moment of consumption is affected by different sources of variability: variability in the storage times and temperatures, variability in product characteristics, variability in process characteristics, variability in the initial contamination of the raw materials, and last but not least, microbiological variability.This article compares different sources of microbiological variability in growth and inactivation kinetics of a pathogen and a spoiler, namely experimental variability, reproduction variability (within strain variability), strain variability (between strain variability) and variability between individual cells within a population (population heterogeneity). Comparison of the different sources of microbiological variability also allows to prioritize their importance. In addition, the microbiological variability is compared to other variability factors encountered in a model food chain to evaluate the impact of different variability factors on the variability in microbial levels encountered in the final product.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-31
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • Diversity
  • Heterogeneity
  • Prediction
  • Quantitative risk assessment
  • Sensitivity analysis

Cite this