Validation of Bacon Processing Conditions To Verify Control of Clostridium perfringens and Staphylococcus aureus

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It is unclear how rapidly meat products, such as bacon, that have been heat treated but not fully cooked should be cooled to prevent the outgrowth of spore-forming bacterial pathogens and limit the growth of vegetative cells. Clostridium perfringens spores and vegetative cells and Staphylococcus aureus cells were inoculated into ground cured pork bellies with and without 1.25% liquid smoke. Bellies were subjected to the thermal profiles of industrial smoking to 48.9°C (120°F) and normal cooling of bacon (3 h) as well as a cooling phase of 15 h until the meat reached 7.2°C (45°F). A laboratory-scale bacon smoking and cooling operation was also performed. Under normal smoking and cooling thermal conditions, growth of C. perfringens in ground pork bellies was <1 log regardless of smoke. Increase of S. aureus was 2.38 log CFU/g but only 0.68 log CFU/g with smoke. When cooling spanned 15 h, both C. perfringens and S. aureus grew by a total of about 4 log. The addition of liquid smoke inhibited C. perfringens, but S. aureus still achieved a 3.97-log increase. Staphylococcal enterotoxins were detected in five of six samples cooled for 15 h without smoke but in none of the six samples of smoked bellies. In laboratory-scale smoking of whole belly pieces, initial C. perfringens populations of 2.23 ± 0.25 log CFU/g were reduced during smoking to 0.99 ± 0.50 log CFU/g and were 0.65 ± 0.21 log CFU/g after 15 h of cooling. Populations of S. aureus were reduced from 2.00 ± 0.74 to a final concentration of 0.74 ± 0.53 log CFU/g after cooling. Contrary to findings in the ground pork belly system, the 15-h cooling of whole belly pieces did not permit growth of either pathogen. This study demonstrates that if smoked bacon is cooled from 48.9 to 7.2°C (120 to 45°F) within 15 h, a food safety hazard from either C. perfringens or S. aureus is not likely to occur.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: John Morrell & Co., 805 East Kemper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246-2515, USA

Publication date: September 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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