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Microbiological Quality and the Inability of Proteolytic Clostridium botulinum To Produce Toxin in Film-Packaged Fresh-Cut Cabbage and Lettuce

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The production of toxin by a lO-strain mixture of proteolytic Clostridium botulinum in fresh produce packaged in polyethylene films having high (7,000 cc/m2/24 h; HOTR) and low (3,000 cc/m2/24 h; LOTR) relative oxygen permeability was determined. Shredded cabbage and lettuce inoculated with ~102 spores/g were placed in bags composed of the two films (1.4 kg/bag), and the bags were then vacuum sealed. Produce was stored at 4,13, and 21°C for up to 21 (cabbage) or 28 (lettuce) days and analyzed periodically. At each sampling time, the gas composition within the bags, pH of the produce, and microbial populations (total aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms, lactic acid bacteria, psychrotrophic bacteria, and yeasts and molds) were determined. In addition, the presence of botulinal toxin was determined using the standard U.S. Food and Drug Administration mouse bioassay protocol. Bags made of HOTR film prolonged sensory quality of cabbage and lettuce, especially at 13 and 4°C. Packaging material had an effect on the growth of various groups of microorganisms; however, there was not a general trend. For example, lettuce packaged in HOTR bags had higher aerobic microbial populations than that packed in LOTR, but no significant difference (P ≤ 0.05) was observed with cabbage. Growth of psychrotrophic bacteria was greater in vegetables packaged in HOTR film while growth of yeasts and molds was not affected by either packaging film. Most differences in microbial populations in produce packaged in LOTR and HOTR films were less than 1 log10 CFU/g. Botulinal toxin was not detected in cabbage or lettuce packaged in either film or stored under any test condition.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia 30223-1797, USA

Publication date: 1998-09-01

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