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Evaluating Microbial Safety of Slow Partial-Cooking Processes for Bacon: Use of a Predictive Tool Based on Small-Scale Isothermal Meat Inoculation Studies

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Abstract:

The objective of this study was to develop a predictive tool for evaluating the safety of slow cooking of pork products and identifying associated critical limits. Small-scale (25 g) ground pork isothermal inoculation studies were done to determine Salmonella serovars, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Staphylococcus aureus estimated critical times (time until growth reached a predefined increase of concern). Estimated critical time values ranged from 720 min at 21°C (S. aureus) to 120 min at 40.6°C (E. coli O157:H7) and were used to develop a multiple-temperature–interval predictive tool for non-isothermal processes. To test predictions, cured-pumped pork bellies were inoculated with Salmonella serovars, E. coli O157:H7, and S. aureus, subjected to slow partial cooking, and quantitatively analyzed for pathogens. Processes lasted 6 to 18 h, with the product interior temperature within the 21 to 46°C range for 263 to 1080 min (high-humidity processes) and 217 to 921 min (low-humidity processes). Growth of Salmonella serovars (>0.3 log), E. coli O157:H7 (>0.3 log), and S. aureus (>1.3 log) in the pork belly interior was predicted for 10, 14, and 5 of 18 trials, respectively. The tool was fail-safe, because pathogen growth, relative to time zero, did not occur anytime regardless of whether it was predicted. For the pork belly surface, the tool performed similarly. Estimated critical time values obtained by fitting the Baranyi equation to isothermal experiment data were also determined and, if used in the predictive tool, would result in even more conservative predictions. Our study substantiates the safety of the tested bacon slow partial-cooking processes and the potential usefulness of our isothermal-based tool in process safety evaluation.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin–Madison, Department of Food Science, 1605 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

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