ABSTRACT

The viability of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes within plant- and beef-based burgers was monitored during storage and cooking. When inoculated (ca. 3.5 log CFU/g) into 15-g portions of plant- or beef-based burgers, levels of STEC and Salmonella decreased slightly (≤0.5-log decrease) in both types of burgers when stored at 4°C, but increased ca. 2.4 and 0.8 log CFU/g, respectively, in plant-based burgers but not beef-based burgers (≤1.2-log decrease), after 21 days at 10°C. For L. monocytogenes, levels increased by ca. 1.3 and 2.6 log CFU/g in plant burgers after 21 days at 4 and 10°C, respectively, whereas pathogen levels decreased slightly (≤0.9-log decrease) in beef burgers during storage at 4 and 10°C. Regarding cooking, burgers (ca. 114 g each) were inoculated with ca. 7.0 log CFU/g STEC, Salmonella, or L. monocytogenes and cooked in a sauté pan. Cooking plant- or beef-based burgers to 62.8°C (145°F), 68.3°C (155°F), or 73.9°C (165°F) delivered reductions ranging from ca. 4.7 to 6.8 log CFU/g for STEC, ca. 4.4 to 7.0 log CFU/g for L. monocytogenes, and ca. 3.5 to 6.7 log CFU/g for Salmonella. In summary, the observation that levels of all three pathogens increased by ca. 1.0 to ca. 2.5 log CFU/g in plant-based burgers when stored at an abusive temperature (10°C) highlights the importance of proper storage (4°C) to lessen risk. However, because all three pathogens responded similarly to heat in plant-based as in beef-based burgers, well-established cooking parameters required to eliminate STEC, Salmonella, or L. monocytogenes from ground beef should be as effective for controlling cells of these same pathogens in a burger made with plant-sourced protein.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cooking parameters validated for beef burgers will eliminate pathogens in plant burgers.

  • Pathogen viability during cold storage is generally better in plant- than beef-based burgers.

  • Values for pH, salt, carbohydrate, and nitrite were appreciably higher for plant burgers.

  • Cooking temperatures were achieved in less time for plant- than beef-based burgers.

  • Levels of indigenous flora were generally higher in beef- than plant-based burgers.

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