The relationship between sensory attributes and total numbers of bacteria was investigated in a study involving 600 samples of spiced luncheon meat. cooked salami, bologna, and chopped ham. The vacuum packaged products were purchased from 60 markets throughout the United States. Samples were subjected to microbiological and sensory evaluation within a few days after purchase and once a week during a 3-week refrigerated storage period. Based upon an off-flavor intensity scale of 1 = none to 7 = extremely strong, the samples having total plate counts (TPC) of< 104, 104, 105, 106, 107, and 108 per gram had mean taste panel scores (TPS) of 2.00, 2.25, 1.92, 2.06, 1.93, and 3.17, respectively over the 3-week storage period. A microbiological standard of 106 TPC would terminate shelf life of these products at 24–28 days after manufacture. Establishment of a total bacterial population of 108 per gram with a corresponding decrease in sensory quality did not occur until 46–60 days after manufacture.

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