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Growth and Toxin Production by Clostridium botulinum in Crumpets Packaged Under Modified Atmospheres

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To determine the safety of a high moisture bakery product, packaged under modified atmospheres, challenge studies were done on English-style crumpets (water activity [aw] 0.990, pH 6.5) inoculated postbaking with Clostridium botulinum types A and proteolytic B spores (5 × 10 2 spores/g). Products were packaged either in air, in air with an Ageless FX200 oxygen absorbent, or in a CO2/N2 (60:40) gas mixture, stored at ambient temperature (25°C), and monitored for toxicity daily. All inoculated crumpets were toxic within 4 to 6 days and were organoleptically acceptable at the time of toxigenesis. Counts of C. botulinum increased to approximately 10 5 CFU/g at the time of toxicity. To determine the effect of baking on product safety, subsequent challenge studies were done on crumpets inoculated with 5 × 10 2 spores/g (baked weight basis) prior to baking. All crumpets were toxic after only 6 days, irrespective of packaging conditions, and toxigenesis again preceded spoilage. Temperature profile studies showed that the maximum internal temperature reached during baking was 97°C, and the total baking process was equivalent to 0.03 min at 121°C. The actual time to toxin production in both studies (4 to 6 days) correlated well with the predicted time (3.4 days) using the U. S. Department of Agriculture Pathogen Modeling Program (version 5.1) for proteolytic strains of C. botulinum. These studies confirm that high moisture bakery products, if contaminated with C. botulinum spores either pre- or postbaking, could pose a public health hazard, if packaged in air (in a high gas barrier package where O2 was depleted and CO2 was generated during storage) or under modified atmosphere packaging conditions and stored at ambient temperature.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry, McGill University, Macdonald Campus, 21,111 Lakeshore Road, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, Canada H9X 3V9 2: Bureau of Microbial Hazards, Food Directorate, Health Protection Branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0L2

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