Close search

Food Safety

5 Essential Strategies for Conquering Beverage Spoilage Organisms

woman refusing drink that has poor taste

Spoilage should be one of your top concerns if you manufacture beverages. Microbes like bacteria, yeast, and mold can grow in your products and cause unpleasant flavors, odors, and appearances. While spoiled products may not pose health risks, they can significantly decrease your profits when you're forced to discard them. Moreover, spoilage often leads to a suboptimal product experience, eroding customer trust and loyalty in your brand and ultimately leading to long-term financial losses. 

To protect your reputation and bottom line, you must prevent microbial contamination in your facility. Taking steps to control spoilage should be a significant focus to avoid disappointed customers and financial losses. Your brand depends on delivering only high-quality, unspoiled beverages.

As consumer preferences shift towards less processed, preservative-free, and functional beverages, the risk of microbial spoilage becomes more pronounced. Many manufacturers have started using ascorbic acid as a natural preservative, but it may not be sufficient to combat all spoilage alone.  
Manufacturers must navigate the delicate balance between meeting consumer demands and ensuring product stability and quality. This blog post will explore the primary types of beverage spoilers and provide five crucial strategies to overcome them, highlighting how Hygiena's cutting-edge solutions, proven effective in maintaining product integrity, play a pivotal role in assisting manufacturers in upholding brand reputation in an increasingly competitive market.

What Are the Most Common Beverage Spoilers?

Understanding the main types of microorganisms responsible for beverage spoilage is crucial for developing effective control strategies. Each group of microbes has specific characteristics that enable them to survive and grow in different beverage environments, leading to unique spoilage patterns and sensory defects. The most problematic microbes in the beverage industry include:

  1. Alicyclobacillus: this spore-forming, thermophilic, and acidophilic bacteria is a significant concern for juice manufacturers because it can survive pasteurization, grow at low pH, and produce guaiacol, which causes a medicinal/phenolic off-flavor and disinfectant-like odor in fruit juices and drinks.
  2. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB): Lactobacillus and Pediococcus produce lactic acid, diacetyl (a buttery off-flavor), and exopolysaccharides that increase the viscosity of beer and soft drinks. Pediococcus damnosus is a standard beer spoiler that grows in the late stages of fermentation.
  3. Wild yeasts: Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces, and others can cause off-flavors, turbidity, and excess gas/alcohol in beer, wine and soft drinks. Brettanomyces produces acid, cidery and medicinal notes that are considered a fault in most beer and wine styles, although some sour beers intentionally use Brettanomyces for its unique flavor profile.

While not usually a safety concern, these spoilage microbes can ruin beverage quality and shorten shelf life. However, occasionally, harmful pathogens like E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria may also survive in fruit juices and cause illness outbreaks, so beverage manufacturers must be vigilant about microbial control.

drinks with a close up showing hidden pathogens

5 Strategies to Control Beverage Spoilers

To minimize microbial spoilage and ensure beverage quality and safety, consider these key strategies:

1. Screen Raw Materials for Spoilage Organisms and Mycotoxins

Preventing spoilage starts with ensuring the quality of your raw materials. Implement a rigorous testing program to screen incoming ingredients for spoilage organisms and mycotoxins. Hygiena's BAX® System PCR assays and foodproof® PCR kits enable rapid, specific detection of yeast & mold, and other spoilage organisms in raw materials like fruit concentrates, sugar syrups, and flavorings. These tests provide results in hours, allowing you to reject contaminated lots quickly before they enter production.

In addition to microbiological testing, it's crucial to monitor for mycotoxins, toxic compounds produced by certain molds. Hygiena's Helica® ELISA tests offer a simple, sensitive solution for screening raw ingredients for a wide range of mycotoxins, including aflatoxins, ochratoxins, and fumonisins. By proactively testing for these chemical hazards, you can prevent them from contaminating your final products.


2. Implement Environmental Monitoring During Processing

Even with high-quality raw materials, spoilage can occur if your processing environment is contaminated. Establish a robust environmental monitoring program to verify the cleanliness of your equipment, filling lines and packaging materials. Hygiena's EnSURE® Touch monitoring system, combined with UltraSnap® or SuperSnap® swabs, allows you to quickly assess the hygienic status of surfaces using ATP bioluminescence technology.

Swabbing equipment regularly and analyzing the results with SureTrend® software helps you identify potential microbial harborage sites and biofilms. If not addressed, these problem areas can harbor spoilage organisms and lead to recurring contamination. Proactively monitoring your environment and taking necessary corrective actions can break the contamination cycle and prevent persistent spoilage.


3. Detect Specific Spoilage Organisms In-Process

In addition to general hygiene monitoring, testing for specific spoilage organisms during production is essential. Hygiena's PCR assays, including the BAX System and foodproof kits, enable targeted detection of key spoilage organisms. For example, you can screen for Alicyclobacillus in juices, lactic acid bacteria in beer and soft drinks, and wild yeasts in beer and wine.

By incorporating these rapid, specific tests into your in-process quality control program, you can quickly identify and address contamination events before they lead to large-scale spoilage. The ability to detect low levels of problematic organisms early in the production process allows you to take immediate corrective actions, such as re-sanitizing equipment or diverting contaminated products, ultimately saving time and money.


4. Verify Finished Product Quality

Before sending your beverages to customers, you must ensure they meet your microbial levels and shelf life standards. Hygiena's Innovate™ Rapid Microbial Screening System and our RapiScreen™ Beverage and Dairy test kits give you a quick and dependable way to check your finished products for various spoilage microbes.

The RapiScreen kits can find minimal amounts (1 CFU per pack) of bacteria, yeast, and mold in many dairy and beverage products after 48 hours of incubation. This includes common spoilage bacteria, spore-forming bacteria, and several types of yeast. The kits have been thoroughly tested on various dairy and beverage products, including those packaged using ultra-high temperature (UHT), extended shelf life (ESL), and aseptic processing.

Using the Innovate System and RapiScreen kits to test your finished beverages, you can quickly check that your manufacturing process is working correctly and that your products meet your quality requirements before reaching consumers. You'll have precise "yes or no" results in just 48 hours. That means you can release products more confidently and efficiently than using slower, traditional microbial test methods such as pH and plating. 


5. Analyze Data to Identify Risk Zones

Effectively leveraging the data generated by your testing programs to control spoilage in the long term is essential. Hygiena's SureTrend software provides powerful data analysis capabilities, allowing you to track ATP, rapid indicator, allergen and PCR test results and identify trends across your facilities. 

By monitoring this data over time, you can pinpoint high-risk areas in your process that may be more prone to contamination.

For example, you might discover that particular equipment or processing steps consistently show higher contamination levels. With this knowledge, you can target your preventive controls and sanitation efforts to these high-risk zones. You can also use the data to validate the effectiveness of your cleaning and sanitation procedures, adjusting as necessary to improve your processes continuously.


Protect Your Brand and Customers with Hygiena's Comprehensive Beverage Safety Solutions

In conclusion, controlling beverage spoilage requires a proactive, multi-faceted approach that addresses the entire production process. By implementing these five essential strategies and leveraging Hygiena's innovative solutions, manufacturers can effectively combat spoilage microorganisms, minimize waste, and consistently deliver high-quality, safe beverages.

Don't let spoilage ruin your products and reputation. Contact Hygiena today to learn how our expert team and advanced solutions can help you develop a customized, comprehensive beverage safety program tailored to your unique needs. Take the first step towards protecting your brand and your customers by reaching out to Hygiena now.

Related News

See all news
Go to next