8.2.1  Extrinsic factors

Extrinsic factors are factors in the environment external to the food, which affect both the microorganisms and the food itself during processing and storage. Extrinsic factors include temperature, humidity and oxygen.


Different microorganisms grow over a wide range of temperatures. Some microorganisms like to grow in the cold, some like to grow at room temperature and others like to grow at high temperatures. This is of paramount importance in food safety, because if you know the temperature growth ranges for dangerous microorganisms it helps you to select the proper temperature for food storage to make them less able to grow and reproduce.


The humidity of the storage environment is an important factor for the growth of microorganisms at the food surfaces. If you store food in a dry atmosphere, microorganisms are less able to grow than if the food is stored in a humid (moist) environment. Therefore, dry conditions are better for food storage than moist conditions.


Many microorganisms need oxygen in order to develop and reproduce: these are called aerobic microorganisms. A good example is Escherichia coli, a faecal bacterium which grows readily on many foods. If you keep food in a low oxygen environment, aerobic bacteria cannot grow and multiply. Conversely, there are some microorganisms that grow without oxygen, called anaerobic microorganisms. An example of this is Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium causing botulism, which can survive in very low oxygen environments such as tinned foods.

8.2  Factors affecting the growth of microorganisms in foods

8.2.2  Intrinsic factors