Portuguese chouriço de vinho is made by drying coarsely minced meat and fat that has been previously marinated with wine (usually red), salt, and garlic for 1 to 2 days at a low temperature (4 to 8 °C). This procedure may improve the microbiological safety of the product. The aim of this study was to evaluate the behavior of three pathogens in this product, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus, to establish the minimum period of drying and maturation necessary to render safe products. The pathogens were inoculated in the chouriço de vinho batter. A factorial design was used to study the following variables in the fermentation process: (i) the presence or absence of an indigenous Lactobacillus sakei starter culture; (ii) the presence or absence of fermentable carbohydrates; and (iii) the salt level (1.5 or 3%). The samples were analyzed 24 h after the preparation of the batter (at stuffing); after 7, 15, and 30 days of drying; and after 30 days of storage at 4 °C under vacuum. Under all of the conditions studied, the levels of the three pathogens decreased during the drying period. In the early stages of drying, the addition of L. sakei starter culture and/or carbohydrates resulted in lower levels of gram-positive pathogens. After 15 days of drying, populations of all pathogens decreased by ca. 2 log in all samples. At that sampling time, L. monocytogenes was undetectable in the chouriço de vinho with L. sakei starter culture and carbohydrates. The mean count of S. aureus after 15 days of drying was below 1 log CFU/g. After 30 days of drying, no pathogens were detected. The drying period could be shortened to 15 days when considering only the gram-positive pathogens studied and the use of a starter culture and carbohydrates. Due to the low infective dose of Salmonella spp., the product should be considered safe after 30 days, when this pathogen became undetectable.
Minimally processed spinach has been recently associated with outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. This study investigated the effect of commercial minimal processing of spinach on the coliform and Escherichia coli counts and the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Shigella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes on two types of spinach before and after minimal processing. A total of 1,356 spinach samples (baby spinach, n = 574; savoy spinach, n = 782) were collected daily in two processing plants over a period of 14 months. Raw spinach originated from nine farms in the United States and three farms in Canada. Overall, the proportion of samples positive for coliforms increased from 53% before minimal processing to 79% after minimal processing (P 0.1) was observed. E. coli O157:H7 and Shigella spp. were not isolated from any of the samples. Salmonella and L. monocytogenes were isolated from 0.4 and 0.7% of samples, respectively. Results demonstrate that commercial minimal processing of spinach based on monitored chlorine washing and drying may not decrease microbial load on spinach leaves as expected. Further research is needed to identify the most appropriate measures to control food safety risk under commercial minimal processing of fresh vegetables.
Australian Food Safety Centre of Excellence, Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 54, Hobart 7001, Tasmania, Australia. email@example.com
Two commercially available organic acid salts, potassium lactate (PURASAL HiPure P) and a potassium lactate-sodium diacetate blend (PURASAL Opti. Form PD 4), were assessed as potential inhibitors of Listeria monocytogenes growth in modified atmosphere packaged (MAP) sliced ham in challenge studies. The influence of the initial inoculation level of L. monocytogenes (10(1) or 10(3) CFU g(-1)) and storage temperature (4 or 8 degrees C) was also examined. The addition of either organic acid salt to MAP sliced ham strongly inhibited the growth of L. monocytogenes during the normal shelf life of the product under ideal refrigeration conditions (4 degrees C) and even under abusive temperature conditions (i.e., 8 degrees C). During the challenge studies and in the absence of either organic acid salt, L. monocytogenes numbers increased by 1000-fold after 20 days at 8 degrees C and 10-fold after 42 days at 4 degrees C. Both organic acid salt treatments were found to be listeriostatic rather than listericidal. The addition of either organic acid salt to the MAP ham also reduced the growth of indigenous microflora, i.e., aerobic microflora and lactic acid bacteria. The influence of these compounds on the risk of listeriosis in relation to product shelf life is discussed.
Consumption of minimally-processed, or fresh-cut, fruit and vegetables has rapidly increased in recent years, but there have also been several reported outbreaks associated with the consumption of these products. Sodium hypochlorite is currently the most widespread disinfectant used by fresh-cut industries. Neutral electrolyzed water (NEW) is a novel disinfection system that could represent an alternative to sodium hypochlorite. The aim of the study was to determine whether NEW could replace sodium hypochlorite in the fresh-cut produce industry. The effects of NEW, applied in different concentrations, at different treatment temperatures and for different times, in the reduction of the foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli O157:H7 and against the spoilage bacterium Erwinia carotovora were tested in lettuce. Lettuce was artificially inoculated by dipping it in a suspension of the studied pathogens at 10(8), 10(7) or 10(5) cfu ml(-1), depending on the assay. The NEW treatment was always compared with washing with deionized water and with a standard hypochlorite treatment. The effect of inoculum size was also studied. Finally, the effect of NEW on the indigenous microbiota of different packaged fresh-cut products was also determined. The bactericidal activity of diluted NEW (containing approximately 50 ppm of free chlorine, pH 8.60) against E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, L. innocua and E. carotovora on lettuce was similar to that of chlorinated water (120 ppm of free chlorine) with reductions of 1-2 log units. There were generally no significant differences when treating lettuce with NEW for 1 and 3 min. Neither inoculation dose (10(7) or 10(5) cfu ml(-1)) influenced the bacterial reduction achieved. Treating fresh-cut lettuce, carrot, endive, corn salad and 'Four seasons' salad with NEW 1:5 (containing about 50 ppm of free chlorine) was equally effective as applying chlorinated water at 120 ppm. Microbial reduction depended on the vegetable tested: NEW and sodium hypochlorite treatments were more effective on carrot and endive than on iceberg lettuce, 'Four seasons' salad and corn salad. The reductions of indigenous microbiota were smaller than those obtained with the artificially inoculated bacteria tested (0.5-1.2 log reduction). NEW seems to be a promising disinfection method as it would allow to reduce the amount of free chlorine used for the disinfection of fresh-cut produce by the food industry, as the same microbial reduction as sodium hypochlorite is obtained. This would constitute a safer, 'in situ', and easier to handle way of ensuring food safety.
This study addressed health risks from ethnic sausages produced on a small scale, without inspection, in California and elsewhere. Mexican-style chorizo, a raw pork sausage that is not cured, fermented, or smoked, was contaminated experimentally in the batter with Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, or Salmonella serotypes and stuffed into natural casings. Formulations were based on a market survey in California. Physical parameters that were controlled were pH, water activity (a(w)), and storage temperature. The pH was adjusted with vinegar, stabilizing at 5.0 within 24 h. Initial a(w) levels adjusted with salt were 0.97, 0.95, 0.93, 0.90, and 0.85; levels declined with time because of evaporation. Pathogen numbers declined with storage up to 7 days, with few brief exceptions. Main effects and interactions of constant temperature and pH with declining a(w) on survival of the pathogens were determined. Maximum death rates occurred at higher a(w) for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella than for L. monocytogenes. Salt used to adjust a(w) affected palatability. Spices (black pepper, chili pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic, guajillo pepper, oregano, and paprika) comprised another, potentially significant aspect of the sausage formulation. Some (notably black pepper and cumin) carried an indigenous microflora that contributed significantly to the microbial load of the sausage batter. Only undiluted fresh and powdered garlic exhibited a significant antimicrobial effect on the pathogens. Although each of the tested formulations caused death of the inoculated pathogens, none of the death rates was sufficiently rapid to ensure safety within the probable shelf life of the product.
Listeria monocytogenes contamination of ready-to-eat food products such as cold-smoked fish is often caused by pathogen subtypes persisting in food-processing environments. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether these L. monocytogenes subtypes can be found in the outside environment, i.e., outside food processing plants, and whether they survive better in the aquatic environment than do other strains. A total of 400 samples were collected from the outside environment, fish slaughterhouses, fish farms, and a smokehouse. L. monocytogenes was not detected in a freshwater stream, but prevalence increased with the degree of human activity: 2% in seawater fish farms, 10% in freshwater fish farms, 16% in fish slaughterhouses, and 68% in a fish smokehouse. The fish farms and slaughterhouses processed Danish rainbow trout, whereas the smokehouse was used for farm-raised Norwegian salmon. No variation with season was observed. Inside the processing plants, the pattern of randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) types was homogeneous, but greater diversity existed among isolates from the outside environments. The RAPD type dominating the inside of the fish smokehouse was found only sporadically in outside environments. To examine survival in different environments, L. monocytogenes or Listeria innocua strains were inoculated into freshwater and saltwater microcosms. Pathogen counts decreased over time in Instant Ocean and remained constant in phosphate-buffered saline. In contrast, counts decreased rapidly in natural seawater and fresh water. The count reduction was much slower when the natural waters were autoclaved or filtered (0.2-microm pore size), indicating that the pathogen reduction in natural waters was attributable to a biological mechanism, e.g., protozoan grazing. A low prevalence of L. monocytogenes was found in the outside environment, and the bacteria did not survive well in natural environments. Therefore, L. monocytogenes in the outer environment associated with Danish fish processing is probably of minor importance to the environment inside a fish production plant.
The prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in retail roe, as well as the microbiological and sensory qualities of the roe, were studied for three fish species under three different storage conditions. A total of 147 Finnish rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus), vendace (Coregonus albula), and burbot (Lota lota) roe samples were bought fresh, frozen, or frozen-thawed from Finnish retail markets. The overall prevalence of L. monocytogenes was 5%; however, the prevalence of the pathogen in fresh roe was 18%. Fresh-bought roe tested positive for Listeria spp. and for L. monocytogenes, respectively, 5 and 20 times as often as did frozen and frozen-thawed roe products combined. The microbiological quality (analyzed as total aerobic heterotrophic bacteria and coliform bacteria) of 78% of the roe samples was unacceptable. Frozen roe samples were found to have the best microbiological quality. According to the results of a sensory evaluation, at least one sensory attribute (appearance, odor freshness, texture, and freshness of taste) was unacceptable for 29% of the roe samples studied. The sensory quality of roe samples bought fresh was better than that of roe samples bought frozen or frozen-thawed. From the results of this study, it is concluded that both the microbiological and the sensory qualities of roe at the retail level need to be improved.