Statistical evaluation of mathematical models for microbial growth

Sophie López, M. Prieto, Jan Dijkstra, Mewa Singh Dhanoa, Jim France

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Citations (SciVal)


The aim of this study was to evaluate the suitability of several mathematical functions for describing microbial growth curves. The nonlinear functions used were: three-phase linear, logistic, Gompertz, Von Bertalanffy, Richards, Morgan, Weibull, France and Baranyi. Two data sets were used, one comprising 21 growth curves of different bacterial and fungal species in which growth was expressed as optical density units, and one comprising 34 curves of colony forming units counted on plates of Yersinia enterocolitica grown under different conditions of pH, temperature and CO2 (time-constant conditions for each culture). For both sets, curves were selected to provide a wide variety of shapes with different growth rates and lag times. Statistical criteria used to evaluate model performance were analysis of residuals (residual distribution, bias factor and serial correlation) and goodness-of-fit (residual mean square, accuracy factor, extra residual variance F-test, and Akaike's information criterion). The models showing the best overall performance were the Baranyi, three-phase linear, Richards and Weibull models. The goodness-of-fit attained with other models can be considered acceptable, but not as good as that reached with the best four models. Overall, the Baranyi model showed the best behaviour for the growth curves studied according to a variety of criteria. The Richards model was the best-fitting optical density data, whereas the three-phase linear showed some limitations when fitting these curves, despite its consistent performance when fitting plate counts. Our results indicate that the common use of the Gompertz model to describe microbial growth should be reconsidered critically, as the Baranyi, three-phase linear, Richards and Weibull models showed a significantly superior ability to fit experimental data than the extensively used Gompertz.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-300
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2004


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