Food safety and hygiene

At the Centre for Formulation Engineering, our aim is to develop fundamental understanding of how to ensure safety through process design and equipment cleanliness.

Microbial Bioprocessing Group

The Microbial Bioprocessing Group, led by Dr Tim Overton, Senior Lecturer in Biochemical Engineering within the School of Chemical Engineering, are developing processes where microbes are used to generate useful products, and processes designed to kill bacteria.

Bacterial responses during food and waste processing

We are investigating novel methods of bacterial inactivation and also bacterial responses to novel processing strategies using flow cytometry as a rapid analytic technique.

Process modelling

We are collaborating with leading edge computational groups to build models for food safety and processing, incorporating equations for microbial growth and quality.

Novel processes, including electric-field and high-pressure sterilisation

Our research involves the development of computational models to predict thermal and flow fields in processes, the formation and removal of fouling deposits and their combination with models for microbial behaviour, as well as the use of process probes such as Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT) and Time-Temperature Indicators (TTIs) in validation.

Cleaning of process plant

Most of the water use in food plants is for hygiene, therefore, understanding how to clean leads to savings in cost and environmental impact. We have built the first direct measure of the force needed to clean microbial and other deposits from a surface, leading to new models. BBSRC and DEFRA funding led to £3.6 million TSB consortium project led by University of Birmingham, with partners Universities of Newcastle, Imperial and 8 companies to reduce their environmental footprint, including EngDs with GSK, Scottish and Newcastle, and Unilever.

Positron Imaging Centre

The Positron Imaging Centre caters to a wide variety of users; the study of flows and measures of blending/mixing are two of the more common experiments performed, however, PEPT can be useful in many more applications. We have used process validation using PEPT and TTIs for safety assurance, including the first TTI for sterilisation and its validation in industrial practice; with links to Campden Food RA and to industry.