The objective of this study was to determine causes for spoilage of Mexican-style sauces prepared “in-house” by restaurants, and to suggest improvements in handling to eliminate this problem. A microbial profile was determined for spoiled enchilada and hot and mild taco sauces. There was no indication of a potential health problem associated with spoiled sauces since Salmonella was absent and Clostridium perfringens and Staphylococcus aureus were present only in low numbers. Spices used in preparing sauces had plate counts ranging from log 4.1 to log 7.7 bacteria per gram. Spoiled sauces had bacterial counts up to log 6.6 per gram. The enchilada and hot sauces which contained the greatest amount of spices had higher bacterial numbers and spoiled more rapidly than the mild taco sauce. Use of ethylene oxide-treated spices, prompt refrigeration of sauces and thorough sanitation reduced counts by 4 log cycles and eliminated spoilage problems.

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