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Poult Sci. 2003 Apr;82(4):632-9.

Perspectives on the use of organic acids and short chain fatty acids as antimicrobials.

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Department of Poultry Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2472, USA.


Organic acids have a long history of being utilized as food additives and preservatives for preventing food deterioration and extending the shelf life of perishable food ingredients. Specific organic acids have also been used to control microbial contamination and dissemination of foodborne pathogens in preharvest and postharvest food production and processing. The antibacterial mechanism(s) for organic acids are not fully understood, and activity may vary depending on physiological status of the organism and the physicochemical characteristics of the external environment. An emerging potential problem is that organic acids have been observed to enhance survivability of acid sensitive pathogens exposed to low pH by induction of an acid tolerance response and that acid tolerance may be linked to increased virulence. Although this situation has implications regarding the use of organic acids, it may only apply to circumstances in which reduced acid levels have induced resistance and virulence mechanisms in exposed organisms. Evaluating effectiveness of organic acids for specific applications requires more understanding general and specific stress response capabilities of foodborne pathogens. Development and application of molecular tools to study pathogen behavior in preharvest and postharvest food production environments will enable dissection of specific bacterial genetic regulation involved in response to organic acids. This could lead to the development of more targeted strategies to control foodborne pathogens with organic acids.

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