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A spoilage test to nose out the nose.

A spoilage test to nose out the nose

"Flat-sour spoilage' is a particularly insidious form of food decomposition in canned goods. Caused by bacteria that thrive at high temperatures, it gains its name from the smell it imparts and the fact that it doesn't cause the characteristic swelling that so frequently signals canned goods gone bad. Most common in imported foods, especially meats, it can result from even short-term storage above 104|F. Thogh not a hazard to health, it is a true spoilage and imparts an objectionable taste.

To find flat-sour spoilage, the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials stick their noses into random samples of canned imports. Since even one sour whiff may cause the whole shipment of a food to be denied U.S. entry, "producers and our inspection people can get involved in some heated disputes over whether or not it's a sour odor,' notes Ralph Johnston of FSIS in Washington, D.C. Judgments can be fairly arbitrary, he admits, since of the basic taste types--sweet, salty, bitter and sour--sourness is hardest to detect. But a test he and two FSIS colleagues have developed will retire the nose and, they hope, the debates.

Most of the microbes responsible for any flat-sour spoilage produce active catalase, an enzyme, as they grow. Mixing hydrogen peroxide with a sample of meat in a zipper-sealed plastic bag will quickly show whether catalase--and hence contamination--is present, even when the spoilage has caused no detectable smell, according to Johnston, George Krumm and John Damare in the most recent (November-December) JOURNAL OF FOOD SCIENCE. Within 15 seconds, active catalase causes oxygen to begin bubbling out of the sample.

According to Johnston, FSIS is so confident about the new test that its use will become standared withing a minth or two.
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Title Annotation:testing for flat-sour spoilage in canned goods
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 18, 1986
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