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Effect of pH on Survival, Thermotolerance, and Verotoxin Production of Escherichia coli O157:H7 during Simulated Fermentation and Storage

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Heat treatment is increasingly being introduced to fermented meat processing, since the acid tolerance properties of Escherichia coli O157:H7 can permit this organism to survive traditional processing procedures. This study investigated the effect of growth pH and fermentation on the thermotolerance at 55°C of E. coli O157:H7 in a model fermented meat system. E. coli O157:H7 (strain 380–94) was grown at pH 5.6 or 7.4 (18 h at 37°C), fermented to pH 4.8 or 4.4 in brain heart infusion broth, and stored for 96 h. Cells grown at pH 5.6 had higher D values at 55°C (D 55°C) than cells grown at pH 7.4 (P < 0.001). Cells fermented to pH 4.8 had higher D 55°C than those fermented to pH 4.4 (P < 0.001). Cells fermented to pH 4.8 demonstrated an increase in D 55°C during storage (P < 0.001), whereas cells fermented to pH 4.4 showed a decrease in D 55°C during the same period (P < 0.001). The effect of growth pH on verotoxin production by E. coli O157:H7 was assessed using the verotoxin assay. Cells grown at pH 5.6 had lower verotoxin production then cells grown at pH 7.4. This effect was not sustained over storage. These results indicate that a lower growth pH can confer cross-protection against heat. This has implications for the production of acidic foods, such as fermented meat, during which a heating step may be used to improve product safety.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: The National Food Centre, Teagasc, Dunsinea, Castleknock, Dublin 15, Ireland 2: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19038, USA 3: University of Ulster, Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, BT37 0QB, Northern Ireland

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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