In total, 115 marinade samples (58 fresh marinades and 57 spent marinades) were collected over 12 months from specialty retailers (four individual stores) near Raleigh, NC. These marinades were screened for total mesophilic aerobic plate count (M-APC), total psychrotrophic aerobic plate count (P-APC), and Enterobacteriaceae. These marinades were also screened for the seven regulated serogroups of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli. Stores A and B used immersion to marinade raw beef cuts, whereas stores C-1 and C-2 used vacuum tumbling. In general, marinade temperatures at the stores ranged from 1.8 to 6.6°C, and beef cuts were marinated from a few minutes to up to 3 days. Regardless of the process used to marinade meat, levels of M-APC and P-APC in fresh marinades ranged from 3.4 to 4.7 and 1.4 to 1.8 log CFU/mL, respectively, whereas Enterobacteriaceae were not detected in any fresh marinades, even after enrichment. However, levels of M-APC, P-APC, and Enterobacteriaceae in spent marinades collected from stores C-1 and C-2 (ca. 3.6 to 7.1 log CFU/mL) were significantly higher (P < 0.05) compared with levels of these same types of bacteria enumerated from spent marinades collected at stores A and B (ca. ≤0.7 to 4.9 log CFU/mL). None of the 115 marinade samples tested positive for Shiga toxin–producing E. coli by using a BAX system real-time PCR assay. No significant (P > 0.05) association was observed between microbial levels (i.e., M-APC, P-APC, and Enterobacteriaceae) and the temperature or duration of the marination process. Levels of M-APC, P-APC, and Enterobacteriaceae in spent marinades were significantly affected by the marination method (P < 0.05), with levels, in general, being higher in marinades used for tumbling. Thus, retailers must continue to keep marinade solutions and meat at a safe temperature (i.e., ≤4°C) and to properly and frequently sanitize the equipment and environment in both the processing area and deli case.

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