​​Postdoctoral Fellows


Dr Michaela van den Honert

Antibiotic resistant bacteria prevalent in livestock and wildlife species in South Africa​

Much research has focused on the fate of antibiotics in clinical settings whereas research of antibiotics in natural environments has been comparatively limited. Conducted within the newly established Centre for Food Safety at Stellenbosch University, the research will determine the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in food-producing livestock and game species in South Africa. This research strives to make a contribution to a greater global understanding of how resistance to antibiotics may increase in future through highlighting key agricultural sources and distribution patterns of the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in food-producing livestock and game. Research in this field will focus on antibiotic resistance involved with animal feed, in game and livestock species under various different farming practices, in the food production environment under different processing conditions as well as looking into alternatives to antibiotics. ​

​​PhD Students


Nompumeleo Shange​​

The prevalence of Campylobacter and Arcobacter species in ostriches​

The ostrich meat industry has shown substantial growth over recent years. This is due to the increasing demand from the local market and the steady export of ostrich meat products to the European market. 

This steady rise in the demand of ostrich meat and meat products directly correlates to the importance of providing consumers with ostrich meat that is safe for consumption. It is then important to investigate the prevalence of emerging pathogenic microorganisms, such as Campylobacter and Arcobacter species in ostrich meat. Campylobacter and Arcobacter species can be found in gastrointestinal tract of food producing animals. When consumed, Campylobacter and Arcobacter species can induce adverse health reactions, even at low contamination levels. At present, most of what is known about Campylobacter and Arcobacter species is obtained from the poultry industry and the study of Campylobacter spp. and Arcobacter spp. in ostrich meat, is scarce. 

Furthermore, in South Africa, there are no specific regulations that govern the presence/absence of Campylobacter spp. and Arcobacter spp. in ostrich meat. Thus, this study will aim to fully disclose if Campylobacter and Arcobacter species are microbiological hazards that the South African ostrich meat producers should be critically aware of. 

MSc Students


Kyle Corbett

​The effect of sanitiser technologies on the growth of biofilm and non-biofilm Listeria monocytogenes

Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogen which causes the human disease, listeriosis, which can result in death. The ubiquitous nature of the organism throughout nature means it can also be found in food processing facilities.  

This organism can also persist in food processing facilities due to the fact that it can grow at refrigerated temperatures and form biofilms on stainless steel equipment.  Listeria monocytogenes has developed certain resistance mechanisms to commonly used sanitisers that are used in factory cleaning. My job is to develop an optimal treatment regime for the food industry against L. monocytogenes which show resistance to certain sanitisers in both the biofilm (sessile) and non-biofilm (planktonic) state.  My research will result in a better understanding of factory cleaning and optimised regimes for sanitiser applications, which will ultimately result in safer food production.​​


Rochelle Keet

A One Health approach: Categorization of Listeria monocytogenes from food, environmental, and clinical origin in the Western Cape (South Africa)​

My study is focused on the well known food pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes and its related virulent strains which are responsible for causing listeriosis, a disease often fatal for immunocompromised individuals. 

Despite the significant public health risk posed by virulent strains of L. monocytogenes, very little research has been generated from sub-Saharan Africa regarding the distribution of L. monocytogenes strains in the food environment and the associated public health risk. 

Thus, this study aims to fill the gap between food and clinical strains, and to investigate potential links between these two areas. I am also investigating the antibiotic resistance of these strains, as well as its susceptibility to a commercial bacteriophage

Michael Esterhuysen

The investigation of Listeria spp. in the South African ready-to-eat processed fruit supply chain

Fresh-cut tropical fruits, an important source of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibers, are particularly attractive to consumers all over the world. This is seen in the growing demand for processed fruit products, however their association with foodborne pathogens, particularly Listeria monocytogenes, has become a growing concern. In order to effectively manage the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes within the processed fruit supply chain, a holistic investigation of all Listeria species present from growers to processors will be of significant value.

This research project focuses on papaya and cantaloupe and aims to gain insight into the ecology and distribution of Listeria spp. in the processed fruit environment, to investigate any changes in the distribution of Listeria species throughout the food supply chain and to identify the points where intervention is required to ensure food safety.​

​Paula Smit

The effect of di​fferent honeybush (Cyclopia subternata) levels in warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) salami

Salami​ is part of a gustatory history truly worth appreciating. Salting and stuffing of highly perishable meat and fat into animal intestines dates back to antiquity and ensured a meat supply lasting up to months. The revolutionary discovery of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) contamination in salt resulting in the well-known stable, cherry red meat colour paved the way for the commercial application of nitrate and nitrite salt in a variety of processed meats and cheeses. Nowadays the curing agents, sodium and/or potassium nitrate and nitrite are commonly applied in cured meats due to their potent antioxidant and antimicrobial effect, especially against the lethal and feared Clostridium botulinum

Unfortunately, the food safety benefits of using these salts are challenged by the potential human adverse effects in the case of nitrite chemistry, resulting in the formation of n-nitrosamines which are known carcinogens. The ongoing debate, controversial conclusions and consumer demands create a tremendous challenge for the meat industry, as food safety is and should always be the number one priority. 

An abundant amount of research has been invested in the use of natural extracts, essential oils and herbs which exhibit antimicrobial and/or antioxidant activities to try and mimic the effect of nitrate and nitrite in processed meats. There is yet to be a single replacement found for these multi-functional curing agents. A potential ingredient, honeybush will be investigated as a potential replacement. Honeybush is an endemic South African shrub enjoyed as hot brewed tea once the leaves and stems are fermented. This plant has proven to be rich in polyphenolics and has shown antioxidant activity. 

The aim of this project is to test the effect of honeybush extract in warthog salami with reduced added sodium nitrate. Physical chemical analysis will be conducted on the salami and includes: pH, water activity, CIEL*a*b surface colour, texture profile analysis, proximate analysis, free fatty acid and lactic acid titration. Final product microbial analysis will  also be conducted and will provide insight surrounding the food safety aspect. 

Caitlin McQuillan  

Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Escherichia coli and shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli in pork.

Foodborne pathogens in pork is currently a major global issue with their presence being a major contributor to human illnesses, hospitalisations and fatalities each year. There is an increased struggle to control the presence of these foodborne pathogens during pork production, thus a vast and comprehensive understanding of these pathogens as well as their respective sources is required in order for the industry to develop and implement effective food safety interventions for pork produ


This study aims to determine the presence, prevalence and respective sources of Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Listeria spp., Escherichia coli and STEC, as well as the high risk areas in the pork production chain in order to limit and control the contamination during the production from farm to shelf.​