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Pathogenic Bacteria Growth And Temperature: Tied At The Hip

Feb 14, 2014

We know from our previous posts that HACCP compliance, specific to seafood, specifically highlights temperature control as a critical preventative method against pathogenic growth and toxin formation. In short, these methods of temperature control are designed to protect both food establishments (in maintaining safe practices) and consumers (in preventing foodborne illnesses). This FDA list outlines pathogens that are common in seafood and thereby represent the biggest threats to consumer safety.

     - Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes)

     - Vibrio vulniicus (V. vulniicus)

     - Vibrio parahaemolyticus (V. parahaemolyticus)

     - Vibrio cholera (V. cholera)

     - Escherichia coli (E. coli)

     - Salmonella spp.

     - Shigella spp.

     - Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) j,

     - Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens)

     - Bacillus cereus (B. cereus)

     - Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni)

     - Yersinia enterocolitica (Y. enterocolitica)


And yet, the list of common pathogens isn’t enough. There are several “process points” by which these pathogens can become an issue and these include unsanitary utensils and equipments, cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, as well as several others. The overall goal is to maintain temperatures that prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria, as in the examples listed above. One must consider the types of bacteria that may be present, their growth rates within the food, and the initial expectation for pathogenic presence. Capping the growth rates of these pathogens with temperature control is the biggest obstacle to overcome, as a “0%” pathogen presence is nearly impossible. To this, the FDA offers this advice:

“In other words, product temperatures should be maintained below the minimum growth temperature for the pathogen or should not be allowed to exceed that temperature for longer than the lag growth phase (i.e., the slow growth phase during which a pathogenic bacteria acclimates to its environment before proceeding to rapid growth) of the pathogenic bacteria at the exposure temperature.”

Further, the strategies for control of pathogenic bacteria in seafood are clearly outlined by the FDA in the same document. Control of moisture and temperature are the most important factors within these respective strategies. This is an abridged list of the FDA’s strategic suggestions, and for more information on FDA best practices and suggestions, visit the link at the footer of this post.

     1. Management of Time/Temperature: Manage the time by which seafood is exposed to temperatures that encourage rapid bacterial growth

     2. Retroactive Revitalization: Kill pathogens and other bacteria with methods such as re-cooking, pasteurization and/or retortion

     3. Moisture Control: Use drying and safe holding practices to control the amount of moisture that is available for growth

     4. Salt Control: Observe, document and adjust the amount of preservatives like sodium nitrite in the food.

     5. Acid Control: Observe, document and adjust the pH levels in the food.

Free Temperature@lert Monitoring Guide for Food Service

FDA.Gov: Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance, Fourth Edition, April 2011

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