Clostridium botulinum may be of concern in prepared refrigerated meals, for which strict cold chain management cannot be guaranteed. This study evaluated the effect of temperature, product composition, and cultured celery juice powder (CCJP) as a source of nitrite on the inhibition of botulinum toxin formation in two experimental (meat- and vegetable-based) prepared meals. Data obtained from the challenge study were compared with a published mathematical model to determine whether the model is fail-safe with regard to the tested meals. Treatments were inoculated with proteolytic C. botulinum, vacuum packaged, cooked at 90°C for 10 min, and assayed for botulinum toxin at appropriate intervals in samples stored at 10, 15, or 20°C for up to 8 weeks. None of the treatments stored at 10°C for 8 weeks supported toxin production by proteolytic C. botulinum. The addition of CCJP delayed toxin production by 1 and 3 weeks in cauliflower potatoes and in Dijon pork, respectively, stored at 15°C. Toxin production was delayed by 1 week at 20°C when CCJP was added to the cauliflower potatoes. This study found that the predictive model was fail-safe but was overly conservative for the experimental meals described. Finally, this study confirms that product composition, the addition of nitrite via CCJP, storage time, and temperature play important roles in the inhibition of toxin formation by proteolytic C. botulinum.

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