Microbial Contamination

A potential problem of open-pond Spirulina production is that the water may be contaminated with pathogenic organisms. Handling of the product during processing can also result in microbial contamination. The final microbial load of the product will therefore depend on how carefully the culture and product are handled at the various stages of production. Only GMPs and direct analysis of microbial flora and concentration in each lot of product can guarantee the safety of the product. The final product should meet microbiological standards set by the various national and international standards (Table 1.3) Standard plate counts (SPC) and confirmed coliform counts are used in the food industry to monitor and inspect mal-handling of food products during processing.35 Analysis of hundreds of Spirulina samples from modern commercial farms in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and Mexico show that coliforms are rarely present,36 indicating the generally good sanitary conditions of growth, harvest, drying, and packaging. Apparently, failure to meet microbiological standards has forced some producers to irradiate their products as evidenced by very low bacterial load, which are difficult to achieve under natural conditions. Irradiation is allowed by regulation for some foods by the FDA. However, such foods, when sold in bulk, should bear information specifying that the product has been irradiated.

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