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Int J Food Microbiol. 2003 Jun 15;83(2):205-18.

A retail and consumer phase model for exposure assessment of Bacillus cereus.

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  • 1Microbiological Laboratory for Health Protection, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands. Maarten.Nauta@rivm.nl


An exposure assessment is conducted for psychrotrophic and mesophilic Bacillus cereus in a cooked chilled vegetable product. A model is constructed that covers the retail and consumer phase of the food pathway, using the output of a similar model on the industrial process as input. Microbial growth is the predominant process in the model. Variability in time and temperature during transport and storage is included in the model and different domestic refrigerator temperature distributions are compared. As an end point, probable levels of B. cereus colony forming units (cfu) in packages of vegetable purée are predicted at the moment the consumer takes the product from its refrigerator, that is prior to a cooking process. The psychrotrophic strain is predicted to end up above a threshold level of 10(5) cfu/g in 0.9% to 6.3% of the vegetable purée packages, depending on domestic refrigerator temperature. Accounting for spoilage this reduces to 0.3% to 2.4%. Even if the purée is stored at 4 degrees C in the domestic refrigerator and use-by-date (UBD) is respected, the threshold level may be passed. For the mesophilic strain the threshold level is rarely passed, but in contrast to the total viable count, the spore load at the end point is predicted to be higher than in the psychrotrophic strain. Our study illustrates how an exposure assessment model, which may be used in quantitative risk assessment, can integrate expertise in modelling, food processing and microbiology over the food pathway, and thus evaluate food safety, identify gaps in knowledge and compare risk management measures. As important gaps in knowledge, the lack of sporulation and germination models and data, validated non-isothermal growth models and a spoilage model useful for risk assessment are identified. Knowledge of the dose-response relationship is limited and does not allow a full risk assessment. It is shown that exposure can be lowered by lowering domestic refrigerator temperatures, and less so much by monitoring and withdrawing contaminated products at the end of industrial processing.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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