Microbial ecology of food contact surfaces and products of small-scale facilities producing traditional sausages

Antonia S Gounadaki, Panagiotis N Skandamis, Eleftherios H Drosinos, George-John E Nychas
Food Microbiology 2008, 25 (2): 313-23
The microbial status in 7 small-scale facilities (SSFs) producing traditional fermented and/or dry sausages was investigated. It was shown that the hygienic status of the processing environment and equipment plays an essential role in the microbial stability and safety of the final products. The current study revealed that the majority of the sampling sites (control points) tested were highly (>4 log CFU/cm(2)) contaminated by spoilage flora (i.e. Pseudomonas, Enterobacteriaceae), with knives, tables and mincing machines being the most heavily contaminated surfaces. Moreover, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp. and Staphylococcus aureus were detected in 11.7%, 26.4%, and 11.7% of the food contact surfaces, respectively. The presence of these pathogens seemed to be associated with high numbers of one or more specific groups of the 'house-flora' on the sampling sites of the facilities; however, high numbers of 'house-flora' do not always suggest the presence of pathogens. With regard to product samples, batter samples were heavily contaminated with the 'house-flora' present on surfaces and equipment of the processing facilities while by the end of processing (final products) LAB constituted the predominant microbial flora of all products. The low initial levels of S. aureus and Salmonella found in batter samples as well as the combination of hurdles (mainly a(w)<0.92, average pH ca. <5.0 and competitive effect of natural flora) in the final products were able to inhibit and/or eliminate these pathogens; however, the detection of L. monocytogenes in 3 out of the 7 final products examined is indicative of cross-contamination. Our findings further indicate that inadequate hygiene practices within small-scale-processing facilities may result in loss of microbial control. Therefore, this study addresses the need for strict control measures within SSFs producing traditional fermented sausages.

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