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Ice Immersion as a Postharvest Treatment of Oysters for the Reduction of Vibrio vulnificus

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Vibrio vulnificus produces serious illnesses that are commonly associated with shellfish consumption, particularly raw oysters. Ingestion can result in fatal septicemia in susceptible individuals with hepatitis, cirrhosis, immune dysfunction, diabetes, or hemochromatosis (metabolic iron overload). Therefore, postharvest treatments to reduce vibrio levels in oysters have been recommended. In this study, rapid chilling by immersion of unwashed whole oysters in ice for 3 h was assessed as a postharvest treatment for reduction of V. vulnificus. Treated oysters were subsequently refrigerated at 45°F (7.2°C), whereas control oysters were not iced but were maintained at 45°F throughout the study. Homogenized meats were monitored for total heterotrophic aerobic bacteria, V. vulnificus, and fecal coliform content before and after treatment over a 2-week period. V. vulnificus was enumerated by DNA probe hybridization of colonies from standard plate counts on nonselective medium, and recovery was compared for several media. Loss of plating efficiency was observed on standard selective and differential media compared with nonselective agars. Numbers of V. vulnificus generally declined in treated samples compared with controls; however, increases in total heterotrophic bacteria and fecal coliforms were also observed in treated samples at some time points. This study does not support the use of ice immersion as a postharvest method because of the relatively small declines in V. vulnificus numbers and the possibility of concomitant increases in fecal coliform and total bacterial contamination.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Florida, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, P.O. Box 110370, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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