Four types of fresh pasta (meat- or cheese-filled tortellini and flat noodle linguine or fettucine) were prepared with different water activities, inoculated with proteolytic Clostridium botulinum spores, packaged under a modified atmosphere, and stored at either 4 or 30°C for 8 to 10 weeks. Products were assayed for botulinal toxin at appropriate sampling times. No toxin was detected in any fresh pasta held at 4°C for up to 8 weeks. However, toxin was detected in meat tortellini with aw of 0.99 and 0.95 at 2 and 6 weeks, respectively, when held at 30°C. Toxin was not detected in tortellini with an aw of 0.94 or below held at 30°C for 10 weeks. Toxin was produced at 2 weeks in linguine at aw 0.96 and held at 30°C, whereas no linguine or fettucine at aw 0.93 or 0.95 and held at 30°C was toxic during 10 or 8 weeks, respectively. The aw of fresh pasta is a principal factor in preventing botulinal toxin production by proteolytic C. botulinum in temperature-abused products. A survey of commercially available fresh pasta revealed that most flat noodles were below the aw limit for botulinal toxin production, whereas most of the filled pasta had aw values which permitted toxin production if temperature abuse occurred.

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