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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Nov;75(22):6963-72. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00291-09. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

Quantification of the relative effects of temperature, pH, and water activity on inactivation of Escherichia coli in fermented meat by meta-analysis.

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Food Safety Centre, Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.


Outbreaks of Escherichia coli infections linked to fermented meats have prompted much research into the kinetics of E. coli inactivation during fermented meat manufacture. A meta-analysis of data from 44 independent studies was undertaken that allowed the relative influences of pH, water activity (a(w)), and temperature on E. coli survival during fermented meat processing to be investigated. Data were reevaluated to determine rates of inactivation, providing 484 rate data points with various pH (2.8 to 6.14), a(w) (0.75 to 0.986), and temperature (-20 to 66 degrees C) values, product formulations, and E. coli strains and serotypes. When the data were presented as an Arrhenius model, temperature (0 to 47 degrees C) accounted for 61% of the variance in the ln(inactivation rate) data. In contrast, the pH or a(w) measured accounted for less than 8% of variability in the data, and the effects of other pH- and a(w)-based variables (i.e., total decrease and rates of reduction of those factors) were largely dependent on the temperature of the process. These findings indicate that although temperatures typically used in fermented meat manufacture are not lethal to E. coli per se, when other factors prevent E. coli growth (e.g., low pH and a(w)), the rate of inactivation of E. coli is dominated by temperature. In contrast, inactivation rates at temperatures above approximately 50 degrees C were characterized by smaller z values than those at 0 to 47 degrees C, suggesting that the mechanisms of inactivation are different in these temperature ranges. The Arrhenius model developed can be used to improve product safety by quantifying the effects of changes in temperature and/or time on E. coli inactivation during fermented meat manufacture.

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