The basic necessities a living being needs to survive or grow are water, food, and shelter. As bacteria are living beings, they too need the same things. They need water and nutrients for energy and a place to survive in a favorable environment. While the proportions or ideal conditions tend to differ from one bacterium to another, they all need these three essentials.
One of the most favorable places to grow or survive is human food. Bacteria can easily as well as quickly grow in eatables, particularly if the environmental conditions are positive for them. However, the question is which food item is ideal for bacterial growth. So, let’s find out!
What Bacteria Need for Growth
Well, it is not only food and water that bacteria need for growth. Their growth is ruled by a few more factors. Contrary to a plant or an animal that has several cells, a bacterium has only one cell, which is self-reliant for survival.
When a bacterium grows, the number of bacteria at that site increases and not the size. Under the most favorable conditions, the total number can get double at an interval of half an hour. So, in simple terms, one bacterium becomes two bacteria and four bacteria become eight.
Thus, a single bacterium can turn into millions of bacteria in next 12 hours. The pace at which this growth happens differs for each kind of bacterium and is dependent on a few critical but external factors. Following are these factors apart from water and food or nutrients:
A few bacteria need oxygen to survive just as humans due to which they are termed as aerobes. The other types can grow without oxygen, which are known as anaerobes. Nevertheless, there are some bacteria that do not grow under either criterion. These are facultative anaerobes.
This is the indicator of acid or alkali level in an eatable, which is in the range of 0 to 14. On this scale, seven indicates a neutral product. A number less than seven indicates an acidic product, while a number above seven indicates an alkaline item. Majority of bacteria grow fine in neutral items. However, several tend to grow in the range of 4.5 to 10.0.
Just as the pH level, different ranges of temperature levels facilitates bacterial growth. Typically, bacteria are classified as per their survival temperature level. For example, psychrotrophic bacteria expand at a temperature between 32°F and 45°F and spoil foods in the refrigerator. Many pathogenic bacteria belong to this category. Mesophilic bacteria expand between 60°F and 110°F. These encompass a majority of pathogenic bacteria. Bacteria tend to multiply gradually below 45°F and heat damage occurs over 140°F. However, in this range, several bacteria are uncontrollable.
Although all these three factors along with food and water have an important role to play, the chemistry between them finally determines whether or not a bacterium will grow in a particular eatable. Usually, the outcomes are unpredictable.
Food Items Favorable for Bacterial Growth
All bacteria need food or nutrients for gaining energy to survive and grow. So, they need sugars, fats, proteins, and other nutrients. Thus, when it comes to finding which food item is ideal for bacterial growth, the answer is the foods that have enough moisture, diverse nutrients, and are neutral or acidic.
These foods are dairy products, poultry, fish, meat, eggs, baked potatoes, shellfish, milk, tofu, sprouts, cut leafy veggies, crustaceans, and sliced melons. These items are likely to be unsafe. Unlike other foods, these items require temperature controls to hinder the growth of bacteria.
Majority of bacteria grow well in specific ranges of temperature, need water and acid, and have particular oxygen requirements. Thus, they grow in neutral, sugary, protein-rich, and moisture-rich items.