Bacteria play an important role in many contexts. Some bacteria may cause infection, intoxication or other diseases in humans and animals, whereas others may have a beneficial, perhaps even health-promoting function.

Several harmful bacteria are transmitted to humans from animals, either directly by contact or indirectly via contaminated food, the so-called zoonotic bacteria. Other harmful bacteria are part of the natural environment surrounding us – soil, water etc. 

Some bacteria are not necessarily harmful, but are able to grow in foods and thereby cause spoilage of the food. Such organisms thereby constitute a major hygiene problem and play an important role for food quality and shelf life.

Research at the National Food Institute

The National Food Institute researches in foodborne pathogenic bacteria, including their prevalence, survival, detection and quantification in various habitats, as well as in outbreak investigation, source attribution and antimicrobial resistance.

We also conduct research into bacteria in food production environments, including HACCP and own control programmes, as well as in predictive modelling. The results enable the Institute to offer research-based consultancy to the food authorities concerning microbiological food safety and hygiene in a broad perspective.

The National Food Institute also offers diagnostic services on zoonotic and food and waterborne bacteria and viruses to external customers, as well as phenotypic and genotypic characterisation.

Beneficial bacteria

As mentioned above, some microorganisms may exert a beneficial effect, for example bacteria which are indigenous members of the human gut microflora or which have colonised animals.

Investigations suggest that some bacteria can be used as probiotics for both humans and animals and are assumed to yield a certain protection against infections, stimulate the immune system and digestion and help utilising the nutrients in the diet.

The research activities of the Institute focus on nutritional matters and the relations between diet, intestinal microbiota and human health, as well as on the potential of probiotic microorganisms as alternatives to antimicrobials in food animal production, e.g. aquaculture.

Danish Veterinary and Food Administration
Dianova, Aarhus, Denmark
University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Life Sciences, Denmark
Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark
Technological Institute of Denmark, Roskilde and Aarhus
Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Copenhagen


Tine Rask Licht
Professor, Head of Research Group
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 71 86