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Growth of Listeria spp. in Shredded Cabbage Is Enhanced by a Mild Heat Treatment

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Mild thermal processing can enhance the shelf life of cut fruits and vegetables by delaying the onset of spoilage and preserving the organoleptic properties of shredded cabbage. However, food safety issues related to this process have not been fully investigated. Therefore, the survival and growth of Listeria spp. on cabbage treated in this manner was examined. Experimentally, 24 strains of Listeria spp. (including L. monocytogenes) were inoculated onto cut and intact cabbage tissues and stored at 5°C. All strains on intact tissues exhibited a moderate decline in numbers (up to 1.0 log CFU/cm2) over the 28-day storage period. Conversely, cut tissue supported growth of most strains during the first 7 to 14 days of incubation with maximum increases of 1.2 log CFU/cm2. Subsequently, the survival or growth on heat-treated (50°C for 3 min) and untreated shredded cabbage of four L. monocytogenes and four nonpathogenic Listeria spp. strains were compared during storage for 21 days at 5°C. Growth on untreated shred for all strains was similar to the results observed on cut tissue with a maximum increase of approximately 1.0 log CFU/g. However, in the heat-treated cabbage shred all strains displayed a rapid increase in growth (up to 2.5 log CFU/g) during the first 7 days of incubation, which may be indicative of the destruction of an endogenous growth-inhibiting compound within the cabbage. In conclusion, this study shows that mild thermal treatments of cut cabbage may promote pathogen growth if other inimical barriers are not implemented downstream of the thermal treatment.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada B4N 1J5. 2: Food Science Program, Department of Process Engineering and Applied Science, Dalhousie University, 1360 Barrington Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3J 2X4

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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