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Compound protects beef from pathogen.

There are more ready-to-eat meat products on the market, and vacuum packaging has made it possible to keep them fresh in appearance and taste. The problem is that pathogenic bacteria can grow on meat packaged in this system at both room and refrigeration temperatures.

Researchers at Kansas State University have found that a solution of sodium citrate can inhibit the growth of C. perfringens on restructured roast beef. When they are processed, ready-to-eat meats undergo a mild heat treatment, but the treatment stimulates rather than reduces the growth of the bacterium in vacuum packaging systems. One way to prevent this problem would be to follow federal guidelines and sharply cool the meat within 5 hours. But not all refrigeration systems make that possible.

So, there is a need for additional secondary safety barriers in vacuum-packaged meat products that will help prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria, such as C. perfringens, during cooling procedures. Sodium citrate would create another hurdle to block the growth of C. perfringens.

C. perfringens was responsible for more than 6% of bacterial foodborne disease outbreaks in 2000 in the United States. Its significance lies also in its designation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an organism that can produce a toxin that could potentially be used in a bioterrorist attack.

The investigators' experiments showed that all sodium citrate treatments reduced C. perfringens levels after the cooking step and before the end of the 18-hour cooling phase. The treatment also suppressed the bacterium's further growth. This approach would be particularly beneficial to smaller meat processors that may not have the equipment to cool their meat far enough and fast enough.

In ground beef, results were similar after heating followed by cooling. The combination of heat and sodium citrate proved to be an effective preventive method against C. perfringens growth by damaging the bacterium's cell structure.

The research team continues to examine its process by using electron microscope transmissions to study the mechanism that is involved in killing the pathogen. The scientists want to see whether the organisms disintegrate, or whether the cell structure changes. Further information. Daniel Fung, Department of Animal Sciences Industry, Kansas State University, 216E Call Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506; phone: 785-532-5654; fax: 785-532-5681; email:
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Publication:Microbial Update International
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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