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Interactive CD guide for food-borne fungal identification

Rico, Ed
BCN Research Laboratories, Inc
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The overall objective of this proposal is the development of a program, designed to be sold as a CD, which will assist food microbiologists in the identification of the common filamentous fungi found in foods. The program will be called FoodMold and will be based on the text Fungi and Food Spoilage (Pitt and Hocking, 1997).
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It will include about 150 species from 40 genera of common food-borne fungi. It will include descriptions on standard identification media (Pitt and Hocking, 1997), and color photographs to assist in accurate identifications. Information will also be provided on the physiology and occurrence of each species, as will as on its ability to produce significant mycotoxins. A feature will be interactive keys to genera and species, which will be based on both text and images. The Phase I objective is the development of a prototype program. Producing the prototype will require the writing of tens of thousands of lines of OpenScript, the programming language used by ToolBook. This will link user commands with text and pictures, so the user can call up the information he needs via a simple, friendly interface. The prototype and final product will consist of some 200 computer screen pages. Each species will have a separate page and there will be others for keys and general information. Each species page will have a series of buttons leading to text or pictorial information. The prototype will include much of the text planned for the final program, including descriptions, and information on ecology, physiology, mycotoxin production, etc. Sufficient black and white pictures will be included for testing the validity of the programming.

Filamentous microfungi (often colloquially known as "molds") are a major cause of food wastage throughout the world, accounting for the loss of about 10% of all food production. Although good textbooks on food mycology are available, a clear need exists for simpler and more visual identification systems. Because of ease of manufacture and use, interactive potential and ability to display color pictures, the CD is the ideal medium for such a system. However nothing of this sort is available. The proposed project aims to produce an interactive CD for the identification of food-borne fungi for use by industry personnel and consulting laboratories. The CD will be aimed not so much at mycologists, but at food bacteriologists, who have excellent training in microbiological techniques, but lack specialist knowledge of food mycology.

1. Scope. It is envisioned that the scope of the prototype and final CD will be similar to that of Fungi and Food Spoilage (Pitt and Hocking, 1997) the most comprehensive guide to food-borne fungi. It will include about 40 genera and 150 species. Food-borne yeasts will be excluded, as the identification methods used are quite different.

2. Information about each genus. Information will be provided about each genus, outlining its major properties, and the major types of foods infected, and with photographs to assist in recognition. For smaller genera, with one to five included species, a key to species will be given.. This key may be pictorial or dichotomous or both.

3. Species information. The information to be provided under each species will be approximately as follows: description (standard, as in Fungi and Food Spoilage); macroscopic photographs on the standard identification media (Czapek yeast extract agar and malt extract agar, Pitt and Hocking, 1997) these will be in color in the final Phase II product; microscopic photographs and/or drawings in grey tones Sections about: nomenclature (naming of the species and important synonyms) distinguishing features physiology (effects of temperature, pH, etc on growth) ecology (occurrence on foods) mycotoxins (principal mycotoxins produced, regulatory implications, biosecurity, detoxification) pertinent references

4. Other information. Short sections on: general information about fungi, growth characteristics, sporulation, etc media, both for isolation and identification techniques for isolating fungi from foods growing fungi for identification information underlying the descriptions techniques for preparing slides use of the microscope for fungi housekeeping precautions handling cultures, detoxification. All of the above information will be given in ToolBook format.

5. Major keys. For genera with a large number of species, keys will be developed using Lucid. It is anticipated that these keys will be for Fusarium, Aspergillus and Penicillium.

6. Testing the prototype Considerable programming, estimated to be up to 20,000 lines, will be involved in developing the prototype for the program in ToolBook. Testing of the prototype will be carried out at workshops organized by us in collaboration with the Dept. of Food Science and Technology of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN or by one or more independent organizations. One possibility is the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Chicago, IL.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Bacterial Pathogens
Chemical Contaminants
Food Defense and Integrity