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A Qualitative Assessment of Toxoplasma gondii Risk in Ready-to-Eat Smallgoods Processing

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Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most common parasitic infections of humans and other warm-blooded animals. In most adults, it does not cause serious illness, but severe disease may result from infection in fetuses and immunocompromised people. Consumption of raw or undercooked meats has consistently been identified as an important source of exposure to T. gondii. Several studies indicate the potential failure to inactivate T. gondii in the processes of cured meat products. This article presents a qualitative risk-based assessment of the processing of ready-to-eat smallgoods, which include cooked or uncooked fermented meat, pâté, dried meat, slow cured meat, luncheon meat, and cooked muscle meat including ham and roast beef. The raw meat ingredients are rated with respect to their likelihood of containing T. gondii cysts and an adjustment is made based on whether all the meat from a particular source is frozen. Next, the effectiveness of common processing steps to inactivate T. gondii cysts is assessed, including addition of spices, nitrates, nitrites and salt, use of fermentation, smoking and heat treatment, and the time and temperature during maturation. It is concluded that processing steps that may be effective in the inactivation of T. gondii cysts include freezing, heat treatment, and cooking, and the interaction between salt concentration, maturation time, and temperature. The assessment is illustrated using a Microsoft Excel–based software tool that was developed to facilitate the easy assessment of four hypothetical smallgoods products.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department for Food Safety and Infection Biology, Section for Food Safety, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, P.O. Box 8146, Ullevaalsveien 72, 0033 Oslo, Norway 2: South Australian Research and Development Institute, Food Innovation and Safety, 33 Flemington Street, Glenside, South Australia 5065, Australia

Publication date: July 1, 2008

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