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Wednesday, 30 April 2014 00:00

A new methodology to characterize pathogen contamination on pork has been developed

Team members Team members Fundación Descubre

This technique is based on mathematical calculations and it allows the identification of best storage temperatures and also avoids the apparition and presence of Salmonella or Lysteria Monocytogenes microorganisms

Researchers of the Bromathologic hygiene group (HIBRO) of the the Agrifood Campus of International Excellence (ceiA3) from the Veterinary School of the University of Córdoba, and the Agrarian Technological Institute of Castilla y León (ITACyL) have developed a new methodology to characterize the distribution of Salmonella and Listeria Monocytogenes pathogens in fresh pork meat. These pathogens, which are resistant to very low temperatures, can compromise consumers health in high concentrations. In order to reach these conclusions, experts analyzed how changes in storage temperatures from the point of sale to households affect to pathogen concentration levels.

In the article "Probabilistic approach for determining Salmonella spp. and L. monocytogenes concentration in pork meat from presence/absence microbiological data" published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, this research team has demonstrated that the application of mathematical data based on probabilistic calculations is efficient when identifying how pathogens distribute in fresh products coming from pork. "Refrigeration storage achieves inhibition of microorganisms growth, but some of them are capable to support low temperatures. This mathematical method permits determination of Salmonella and L. monocytogenes concentration in contaminated lots and thus to improve the control of raw materials and processing operations, minimizing the risks associated to fresh meat", Antonio Varela researcher of the University of Cordoba explained to Fundación Descubre.

To obtain these results, experts acquired monthly for a year twelve series of fresh pork meat packaged in a protective atmosphere and bought in a local supermarket in Cordoba. "In the laboratory, we analyzed samples first coming from the point of sale and then having been stored in controlled temperatures  4ºC and 12ºC", professor Varela said. Moreover: "Next stage was to calculate Salmonella and L. Monocytogenes prevalence in each sample. To that end, we use probabilistic methods that allow us to determine and to match how pathogen concentrations distributed"  

Industrial applications:
Conclusions drawn from this study can be applied at an industrial level, with the aim of knowing appropriate storage temperatures for these products. They can also be used in enterprise risk management by health authorities. "The mathematical approach allows production process improvements as well as designation of new procedures devoted to identify of sanitary risks caused by hazard microorganism levels", professor Varela affirmed.

This research has opened new lines of work related to development of more sensitive analytic techniques, that are more reliable for the detection of harmful pathogens for consumers. "In the future, we will acquire more knowledge concerning distribution of pathogens in other food products, in order to optimize suitable sampling systems for its detection", professor Varela concludes.
Results come from the implementation of the European project Baseline: selection and improving of fit-for-purpose sampling procedures for specific food and risks, founded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union and whose principal researcher is Mrs. Rosa María García Gimeno, associate professor of the University of Cordoba.

Valero A, Hernandez M, De Cesare A, Manfreda G, García-Gimeno RM, González-García P, Rodríguez-Lázaro D. ‘Probabilistic approach for determining Salmonella spp. and L. monocytogenes concentration in pork meat from presence/absence microbiological data’. International Journal of food microbiology.

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