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Interactive CD Guide for Food-Borne Fungal Identification

Rico, Ed
BCN Research Laboratories, Inc
Start date
End date
  1. Inputting and completion of all details in the pages of information about each included species
  2. Provision of color photographs of colonies where appropriate (most species pages, many key couplets)
  3. Provision of high quality (Nomarski interference contrast) photomicrographs or, in a few cases, line drawings of microscopical features for each species, and also for many key couplets
  4. Writing of keys for major genera, notably Aspergillus, Penicillium and related genera
  5. Writing of ancillary information, to be placed on separate pages, on topics including:
    • media and methods for isolating fungi from foods and identifying them
    • information underlying the descriptions
    • general laboratory practice, housekeeping and safety
All of the above information will be given in ToolBook format, and will be readily accessible from the Index or, where appropriate, from individual pages. These sections remain to be written. The programming to be written for the final version approaches 50,000 lines of OpenScript, the ToolBook programming language. Templates for most of these lines have been written during development of the prototype in Phase I.
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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: 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.

APPROACH: 1. Scope. It is envisioned that the scope of the 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 53 genera and 156 species. The list of genera to be included in the final product will be as follows: * Mucorales: Absidia, Cunninghamella, Mucor, Rhizomucor, Rhizopus, Syncephalastrum and Thamnidium * Ascomycete genera with teleomorphs (sexual stages): Byssochlamys, Chaetomium, Emericella, Eupenicillium, Eurotium, Monascus, Neosartorya, Talaromyces and Xeromyces * Ascomycete genera without teleomorphs: Acremonium, Alternaria, Arthrinium, Aspergillus, Aureobasidium, Basipetospora, Bipolaris, Botrytis, Chrysonilia, Chrysosporium, Cladosporium,Colletotrichum,Curvularia,Drechslera, Endomyces, Epicoccum, Eremascus, Fusarium, Geotrichum, Hyphopichia, Lasiodiplodia, Macrophomina, Moniliella, Nigrospora, Paecilomyces, Penicillium, Pestalotiopsis, Phialophora,Phoma,Polypaecilum, Scopulariopsis, Stemphylium, Trichoconiella, Trichoderma,, Trichothecium, Ulocladium and Wallemia Species. The number of species in each genus will vary from one (genera such as Cunninghamella, Xeromyces, Botrytis and Wallemia) to 24 for Aspergillus and its sexual states and 47 for Penicillium and its sexual states.

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 genera where more than one species is described, a key to species will be given.

3. 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) most of 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) - 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. Color photographs. To make the program effective for its target users, it will be essential that about 150 color photographs of fungal colonies be included.

PROGRESS: 2006/09 TO 2008/08
OUTPUTS: The major aim of this project was to produce a CD to enable microbiologists in the food and related industries to recognize fungi (the common molds and many of the pathogens on fruit and vegetables) in fresh produce, raw materials for processing and processed food products of all kinds. This aim has been fulfilled: material from many sources has been put together as a software program entitled "FoodMold" which is being distributed as a CD-ROM. FoodMold has been written in a development program called "ToolBook", marketed by SumTotal (Mountain View, CA). FoodMold contains nearly 300 "pages" of information about foodborne fungi. It includes 20 specially written keys, where appropriate illustrated by pop-up photographs, which will enable the user to identify almost every species of fungus (mold) likely to be encountered in the food supply. When the user has made an identification, FoodMold then provides a page of information on each of these species, with color photographs of colonies growing on standard media, photomicrographs or drawings of microscopic appearance and a detailed description under standard growth conditions. Taken overall, this information will enable users to be confident of their identifications. In addition, each page provides further information about the species, in particular about the foodborne habitats where it is likely to be found, the possible mycotoxins it may produce in foods, and intrinsic physiological characteristics which will enable it to grow (and make toxins) in particular food types. FoodMold includes 150 species of fungi, from 30 genera, likely to be seen in foods. The most common and important genera, Aspergillus (20 species), Penicillium (32 species) and Fusarium (16 species) are keyed out and treated in great detail. Also included are other important fungi, including the heat resistant fungi which cause spoilage of juices and pasteurized products, and the xerophilic fungi which are responsible for the spoilage of many types of dried foods. FoodMold is pitched at the industrial bacteriologist with good knowledge of microbiological techniques but limited knowledge of fungi. To assist these users, FoodMold includes extensive material on best practice methods for examining foods for fungal contamination and spoilage, with a comprehensive list of the media used by specialist food mycologists. All of these media can readily be prepared in a routine bacteriological laboratory. To enable dissemination of FoodMold to the food industry and microbiology community, a demonstration CD, called "FM Demo" has also been produced. That CD is being distributed free of charge to industry contacts and any interested party. At this moment, FoodMold is advertised at the BCN Labs web site ( In the near future, a dedicated web site advertising FoodMold will be started. FoodMold is being distributed by BCN Research Laboratories from its office in Rockford, TN.
PARTICIPANTS: Project Principal Investigator and Director: Emilia Rico, Ph.D., BCN Research Laboratories, Inc.; Associate Investigator and Funds Administrator: Shawn Johnson, BCN Research Laboratories, Inc.; Speciality Programmer: I.G. Pitt, Ph.D.,self-employed; Project Consultant: John Pitt, Ph.D., Food Science Australia, North Ryde, NSW
TARGET AUDIENCES: The target audience of FoodMold is mainly the food and beverage industry personnel and consulting laboratories. The CD is aimed not so much at mycologists, but at food bacteriologists, who have training in microbiological techniques, but lack specialist knowledge of food mycology. This CD is also a great tool for the trained food mycologist as well as an excellent reference guide for the person that is looking for accurate and up to date information on foodborne molds.

IMPACT: 2006/09 TO 2008/08
The outcomes and impacts resulting from the development of FoodMold are largely in the future. FoodMold is a unique tool to assist microbiologists to visualize and recognize foodborne fungi. The clarity, luminescence and superbly accurate color rendition of the modern computer screen make possible effective visualization of fungal colonies in color for the first time. Traditional texts on foodborne fungi have used black and white photographs, and FoodMold therefore marks a great step forward in accurate recording of foodborne fungal colors, and hence accurate recognition. In particular, many species of Penicillium produce colonies that differ only subtly in their dull blue-green colors, yet these differences are of considerable taxonomic importance (and utility in identification). In FoodMold, these differences are readily and accurately seen. In addition, the high quality photomicrographs made possible by modern computer imaging enhance the visuals for the user, improving comparison of the photographic record with what is seen under the microscope. The main outcome from the dissemination of FoodMold among users in the food industry will be a greatly increased awareness of the importance of fungi in foods in the USA and throughout the world. While recognizing that foodborne fungal problems exist, most people in the food industry are unable to recognize individual fungal species. This has resulted in failure to appreciate the specificity of such problems - that both spoilage and mycotoxin production is limited to just a few fungal species in any crop in any particular climatic region, or in any processed food. The widespread use of FoodMold will enable accurate recognition of important species by many more industry people, which must lead to improved awareness of the problems, and improved control over spoilage and mycotoxin formation. The benefit to the community will be both monetary, in reduced spoilage and downgrading or discarding of toxic materials, and improved human and animal health.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
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Food Defense and Integrity
Natural Toxins