Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/9/2015
Publication Date: 3/26/2015
Citation: Gunther, N.W. 2015. The numbers game: Campylobacter survival in poultry products through the pH effects of polyphosphate additives. Meeting Abstract. meeting abstract.
Technical Abstract: Campylobacter species are responsible for the largest number of food-borne gastrointestinal bacterial infections in the developed world. Poultry products are a primary pathway for the introduction of Campylobacter into the food supply. Undercooked poultry products and the cross-contamination of other foods by raw poultry materials are common methods for the transmission of Campylobacter to humans. However, Campylobacter are also nutritionally fastidious bacteria that are sensitive to normal environmental oxygen levels making them unlikely candidates for persisting in poultry products or on processing surfaces in sufficient numbers to cause disease in consumers. This previous inconsistency has led to research efforts that intend to identify materials or techniques used in poultry processing that would enhance Campylobacter’s ability to persist in sufficient numbers to cause the observed disease levels. A group of these materials that have been investigated are polyphosphates. Polyphosphates are a class of food grade compounds that are commonly added to poultry and other meats to increase the water holding potential of the meat, to enhance taste, and to prevent drying of the product during cooking. Polyphosphates were investigated to determine if their usage negatively impacts the safety of poultry by enhancing the survival of Campylobacter cells present in the exudate (weepage, purge) portion of poultry products. The exudate of a poultry product consists of blood and fats from the poultry meat in addition to water and other materials add during processing. This liquid often contains a significant number of Campylobacter cells and can be responsible for the cross contamination of other foods through its spread on kitchen food preparation surfaces. Research demonstrated that the presence of commonly used polyphosphates in the exudates allowed Campylobacter to survive in greater numbers under common food storage conditions. The primary mechanism for the polyphosphate mediated enhancement of survival is the change they cause in the exudate’s pH from acidic to the more neutral conditions favored by Campylobacter. Additionally, it was shown that polyphosphates with smaller compared to larger sodium atom to phosphate group ratios modified the pH levels of poultry exudates to smaller degrees; and did not significantly enhance the survival of contaminating Campylobacter making those polyphosphates potentially safer for use in poultry marinades. Likewise, poultry products with significant buffering capacities did not have their pH influenced by the presence of polyphosphates and therefore did not demonstrate increased survival of contaminating Campylobacter. Additionally, polyphosphate usage in ground poultry was shown to have no impact on the effectiveness of flash freezing and high pressure intervention technologies in the reduction in the numbers of Campylobacter.