Tell me a little bit about yourself… and your academic/professional bio

I wanted to be a doctor but I graduated in Food Engineering. After graduation, I wanted to work in the food industry but I was given the opportunity to undertake a doctoral research programme. I didn’t want to be a teacher but I was invited to give Food Microbiology laboratory classes during my PhD ... nothing happens by chance.

Currently I’m professor on Food Microbiology/Food Safety subjects at Escola Superior de Biotecnologia – Católica Porto, Portugal (UCP) and lead of the CBQF (Research Centre the Faculty) research group Food & Nutrition. I have participated in and led a large number of research projects in the area of Food Microbiology/Food Safety, supervised externally funded research fellowships, as well as successfully concluded PhD and Master thesis. In the last years, my research activity has been mainly focused on the transmission and ecology of foodborne pathogens (strong focus on Listeria monocytogenes) from farm-to-table.

Do you have a favorite bacteria, which is it and why?

Yes!!! Lactic acid bacteria and Listeria monocytogenes.

My PhD was on survival, injury and repair of Lactobacillus bulgaricus during spray-drying. My first funded project and my first PhD students worked on similar topics. Very interesting findings and results published several years ago are still cited in papers being published now. Still remember the (good) smell of these lactics…

Later, I was hired by the University and joined the research team working on food safety. After I had many discussions with colleagues on potential future directions of research that would be both interesting but also of value to the Portuguese food industry. Studies on Listeria were elected as priority. At that time all that I knew about L. monocytogenes was that it was a dangerous foodborne bacteria… The years went by and after several research projects, being involved in the detection of and investigating the first outbreak listeriosis in Portugal, promoting education campaigns… L. monocytogenes has all my admiration and respect. L. monocytogenes is able to persist in food processing plants for several years and the reasons are still not clear. Listeria has several mechanisms to escape the immune system. Listeria killed at least 227 people in Europe in 2017… but many individuals at higher risk, pregnant women and elderly people, still do not have knowledge on how to prevent listeriosis.

And back to lactic acid bacteria, several strains are able to kill Listeria!

How is the current situation, concerning food borne illnesses in your country?

For sure, much better than a few years ago but it still can be improved. Although the number of cases and outbreaks appear to be increasing this probably reflects an improved disease detection and reporting system. For example, in Portugal, listeriosis has been notifiable only since April 2014. Demographic alterations, i.e. the increase in the elderly population, and alteration in dietary habits may also contribute to this increase

What is your role in SafeConsume?

I’m leading WP2- “Effect of consumer behaviour on foodborne microbial hazards and evaluation of monitoring methods used by consumers to measure safety and performances”. Briefly, in this WP we mimic consumer behaviors in the laboratory to evaluate their impact on the behavior of microbes. In addition I’ve been working on all the other WPs (with the exception of WP7). I walked along with sociologists in visits to households. In addition to the collection of samples for microbiological analyses, this was an opportunity to observed consumer behaviors during shopping, food storage and cooking that were then simulated in the laboratory in WP2. I participated in the collection of food safety myths in Portugal some of which are now being debunked (or not) with laboratory experiments.

What do you think will be the most important benefits/deliveries from SafeConsume?

Cases of foodborne diseases that will not occur simply because SafeConsume will have contributed to “Changing consumers behaviour to reduce exposure to hazards and decrease risk through effective and convenient tools and products, communication strategies, education and an inclusive food safety policy”.

​What is the ambitions of your operation in the field of reducing food borne illnesses?

Proceed with the investigation on strategies to prevent or reduce the risks posed by foodborne pathogens and promote scientific outreach activities to increase food safety awareness. We expect that new opportunities will arise in the near future to strengthen the excellent partnerships established in SafeConsume.

What is your best advice to consumer on how to reduce the risks of food borne illness?

“Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill” at all stages of the food journey (when possible), and avoid risky foods if you (or some one we take care of) are included in the YOPI (Young, Old, Pregnant, Immunosuppressed) population.