New Publication: Modelling the impact of chlorine on the behavior of Listeria monocytogenes on ready-to-eat meats


Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) continues to pose a food safety hazard in ready-to-eat (RTE) meats due to potential cross-contamination. Chlorine is commonly used to sanitize processing equipment and utensils. However, Lm may survive the treatment and then contaminate food products. The objective of this study was to characterize the behavior of chlorine-exposed Lm on RTE ham during refrigerated storage. A two strain cocktail of Lm serotype 4b was pre-treated with chlorine (0, 25, and 50 ppm) for one hour, and then inoculated onto the surface of RTE ham to obtain an inoculum of about 3.0 log CFU/g. The inoculated ham samples were stored at 4, 8, and 16°C, and Lm was enumerated periodically during the storage. The growth characteristics (lag time and growth rate) of Lm were estimated using the DMFit software. The results indicated that Lm growth was suppressed by the chlorine treatment. At 4°C, the lag time of Lm with no (0 ppm) chlorine exposure (4.2 days) was shorter than those exposed to 25 ppm (5.4 days) and 50 ppm (6.8 days). The lag time decreased with the increase of temperature, e.g., at 25 ppm, the lag times were 5.2, 3.8 and 2.6 days for 4, 8 and 16°C, respectively, and increased with the increase of chlorine concentration, e.g., at 16 °C, the lag times were 1.2, 2.6 and 4.0 days for 0, 25 and 50 ppm, respectively. However, growth rate increased with the increase of temperature and decreased with the increase of chlorine concentration. The lag time and growth rate as a function of chlorine concentration and temperature can be described using a modified Ratkowsky model and a modified Zwietering model, respectively. The results showed that the growth of Lm on RTE ham was delayed by pre-exposure to chlorine (at ≤50 ppm). The predictive models developed will contribute to microbial risk assessments of RTE meats.

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