Submitted to: Pathogens and Toxins in Foods: Challenges and Interventions
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/20/2008
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The incidence of C. perfringens food-poisoning is quite common and costly. Although somewhat fastidious in growth characteristics using synthetic laboratory media, the microorganism is very prolific when found in food products. Despite the pathogen’s ubiquity in the natural environment, foodborne illnesses arise from the improper handling and preparation of foods. Complete eradication of the microorganism from foods is not possible largely due to the ability to form highly resistant spores. The D-values of C. perfringens spores at 98.9 C may be as high as 31.4 min in beef gravy. Therefore, a low number of spores could potentially survive cooking of a meat in sauce; however, the preferred method of control of this microorganism is not necessarily initial heating but rather adequate cooling and adequate reheating following cooling to inactivate any cells produced during cooling. Control measures are in place that take advantage of the microorganism’s limitations to growth with respect to oxygen, water activity, pH, curing salts, organic acids, and natural inhibitors. Recently, many predictive growth models have been developed to accurately estimate C. perfringens survival following various types of food processing scenarios. The best strategy to controlling C. perfringens appears to be a hurdle approach combined with careful handling of foods to avoid temperature-abuse. Regulatory requirements for C. perfringens in foods in the U.S. follow the USDA-FSIS compliance guidelines. Discriminatory methods for evaluation and trace-back of C. perfringens food-borne illness have evolved over the years from culture-based methods to serological typing to more sophisticated and rapid molecular based technologies. Awareness, preventive measures for control, and multiple hurdles appear to provide the greatest opportunities for success.