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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1997 May;63(5):1953-8.

Effects of nisin and temperature on survival, growth, and enterotoxin production characteristics of psychrotrophic Bacillus cereus in beef gravy.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Griffin 30223-1797, USA.


The presence of psychrotrophic enterotoxigenic Bacillus cereus in ready-to-serve meats and meat products that have not been subjected to sterilization treatment is a public health concern. A study was undertaken to determine the survival, growth, and diarrheal enterotoxin production characteristics of four strains of psychrotrophic B. cereus in brain heart infusion (BHI) broth and beef gravy as affected by temperature and supplementation with nisin. A portion of unheated vegetative cells from 24-h BHI broth cultures was sensitive to nisin as evidenced by an inability to form colonies on BHI agar containing 10 micrograms of nisin/ml. Heat-stressed cells exhibited increased sensitivity to nisin. At concentrations as low as 1 microgram/ml, nisin was lethal to B. cereus, the effect being more pronounced in BHI broth than in beef gravy. The inhibitory effect of nisin (1 microgram/ml) was greater on vegetative cells than on spores inoculated into beef gravy and was more pronounced at 8 degrees C than at 15 degrees C. Nisin, at a concentration of 5 or 50 micrograms/ml, inhibited growth in gravy inoculated with vegetative cells and stored at 8 or 15 degrees C, respectively, for 14 days. Growth of vegetative cells and spores of B. cereus after an initial period of inhibition is attributed to loss of activity of nisin. One of two test strains produced diarrheal enterotoxin in gravy stored at 8 or 15 degrees C within 9 or 3 days, respectively. Enterotoxin production was inhibited in gravy supplemented with 1 microgram of nisin/ml and stored at 8 degrees C for 14 days; 5 micrograms of nisin/ml was required for inhibition at 15 degrees C. Enterotoxin was not detected in gravy in which less than 5.85 log10 CFU of B. cereus/ml had grown. Results indicate that as little as 1 microgram of nisin/ml may be effective in inhibiting or retarding growth of and diarrheal enterotoxin production by vegetative cells and spores of psychrotrophic B. cereus in beef gravy at 8 degrees C, a temperature exceeding that recommended for storage or for most unpasteurized, ready-to-serve meat products.

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