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Researcher: Food labels with microbial data could help manage physical, and possibly mental, health

Just as food labels now tell the content of fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals, food scientists believe the information one day will include all bacteria and fungi in the product.

“Like a nutritional profile, we are creating a microbial profile,” said Dr. Suresh Pillai, Texas AgriLife Research food microbiologist and director of the National Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M University. “We are very interested in how microorganisms behave in food, and we treat all microorganisms as opportunistic pathogens.”

Knowing what microbes are in foods could become increasingly important as researchers continue to discover ways the tiny organisms impact human mental and physical health, he noted.

“Every part of the human body is colonized by very unique microorganisms that are providing functionality to humans. It’s not that they are contaminants. If you removed them, then there would be physiological effects in humans," said Pillai, who has presented the findings with graduate student Katherine McElhany at the American Society for Microbiology meeting.

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