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Determination of the Viability of Toxoplasma gondii in Cured Ham Using Bioassay: Influence of Technological Processing and Food Safety Implications

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Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii and distributed worldwide. Ingestion of viable cysts from infected raw or undercooked meat is an important route of horizontal transmission of the parasite to humans. Little information is available concerning the effect of commercial curing on cysts of T. gondii. This study is the first in which the influence of processing of cured ham on the viability of T. gondii has been evaluated, using bioassay to assess the risk of infection from eating this meat product. Naturally infected pigs were selected for the study, and a mouse concentration bioassay technique was used to demonstrate viable bradyzoites of T. gondii in porcine tissues and hams. No viable parasites were found in the final product (14 months of curing) based on results of the indirect immunofluorescence assay and histological and PCR analyses. Our results indicate that the consumption of hams cured as described here poses an insignificant risk of acquiring toxoplasmosis. However, additional studies are required to evaluate the safety of ham products cured under different conditions of curing time, salt, and nitrite concentration.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Producción Animal y Ciencia de los Alimentos;, Email: 2: Departamento de Patología Animal, Universidad de Zaragoza, Facultad de Veterinaria, C/ Miguel Servet 177, 50013, Spain 3: Departamento de Producción Animal y Ciencia de los Alimentos

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) 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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