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Shelf life microbiological questions

Spore formers MAP

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#1 Brian S

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Posted 27 November 2019 - 05:35 PM

Hi IFSQN community,

 

We are tinkering with a new product line at our company but I had some concerns about microbiological ramifications. I am hoping someone on here can help me understand a couple of things. I have been doing research but can't seem to find direct answers to my questions. My company is a frozen pasta manufacturer (FSIS, FDA) and we are trying to MAP (CO2, N2) package cooked noodles to have a 22 day shelf life. The noodles are cooked to lethality and then frozen on trays before packaging. Getting below 40 F takes about an hour. The idea is to sell to our customer frozen, slack out, and have 22 days thereafter under refrigerated conditions. Because of the cooking pathogens are not a real concern. My real concern is spore formers. My research has shown me that some species of  botulinum can grow and germinate at less than 36 F, 3 C, degrees and that pre-cooked pasta can be of particular concern for spore formers. I am wondering if any of you have any data or experience to show how long these spores will stay at an acceptable level under normal refrigeration temperature.

 

I am working with my lab to try and get some testing done but they needed to order special tests for spore formers. When I got to thinking about it, I can't recall ever seeing a spec sheet that includes spore formers. If these organisms can't be inactivated by normal cooking, can germinate above 36 degrees, and can produce fatal toxin why does nobody test for them? Lots of questions which are suddenly sending my microbiological brain through loops. If anyone has any information I would appreciate it. 



#2 BigGaz1982

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 09:45 AM

Hi Brian

 

I suppose it depends on which species of Botulinum you are looking for. Furthermore, we need to consider how common this is too.

 

Firstly, as you know, Botulinum grows best between 70 F and 110 F. If you are storing the product at chilled temps, the growth rate is going to be drastically reduced and likely to remain below toxic levels.

 

Secondly, the data on Botulinum in the US shows that there were 19 cases of foodborne botulinum in 2017, which is nothing when you consider there were 141 cases of infant botulinum. There were also 0 cases of the foodborne botulinum coming from pasta. In fact the biggest risk is Nacho Cheese.

 

I would consider a risk assessment of the product, using this source (https://www.cdc.gov/...rveillance.html) and taking into consideration your systems. I would suspect that it would show a low risk.

In terms of testing, you could consider testing for the presence or absence over life. Speak to your lab and see if they can test for presence easily, and then use this. You could test each week over life, or every 3 days over life or similar. There certainly is a way to easily test, as they are monitoring botulism on a national level.



#3 Charles.C

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 11:42 AM

Hi IFSQN community,

 

We are tinkering with a new product line at our company but I had some concerns about microbiological ramifications. I am hoping someone on here can help me understand a couple of things. I have been doing research but can't seem to find direct answers to my questions. My company is a frozen pasta manufacturer (FSIS, FDA) and we are trying to MAP (CO2, N2) package cooked noodles to have a 22 day shelf life. The noodles are cooked to lethality and then frozen on trays before packaging. Getting below 40 F takes about an hour. The idea is to sell to our customer frozen, slack out, and have 22 days thereafter under refrigerated conditions. Because of the cooking pathogens are not a real concern. My real concern is spore formers. My research has shown me that some species of  botulinum can grow and germinate at less than 36 F, 3 C, degrees and that pre-cooked pasta can be of particular concern for spore formers. I am wondering if any of you have any data or experience to show how long these spores will stay at an acceptable level under normal refrigeration temperature.

 

I am working with my lab to try and get some testing done but they needed to order special tests for spore formers. When I got to thinking about it, I can't recall ever seeing a spec sheet that includes spore formers. If these organisms can't be inactivated by normal cooking, can germinate above 36 degrees, and can produce fatal toxin why does nobody test for them? Lots of questions which are suddenly sending my microbiological brain through loops. If anyone has any information I would appreciate it. 

 

Hi Brian,

 

Why 22 days specifically ?

 

The risk from C.botulinum in non-aerobic scenarios has been extensively researched/published. In UK together with appropriate control measures.  IIRC a decision tree exists which dictates the (Regulatory) applicable shelf life(s). Also discussed several times on this forum with links/attachments.

 

Other spore forming situations  are usually detailed/discussed in the related haccp plans. For example B.cereus germination in cooked rice schemes is controlled via cooling speed post cooking.

 

I suggest to do a little more searching in the Literature. I think it's all out there.

 

PS - A summary of the UK findings mentioned above plus some further comments are in Appendix 2 (pg 37) of attachment below.

 

Attached File  Determination of Product Shelf Life.pdf   376.48KB   8 downloads


Edited by Charles.C, 28 November 2019 - 01:14 PM.
added

Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#4 Brian S

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Posted Yesterday, 04:01 PM

Thanks for your insight, I really appreciate it. I did get some testing done and as you predicted we were good on spore formers. Plate count, yeast, and mold however were through the roof though unfortunately. At least we tried.......on to the next project.

 

Thanks again for the help







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