The ability of Clostridium botulinum type A or B spores to grow and produce toxin in fresh raw potatoes under vacuum with or without sulfite at 22°C was investigated. Fresh, peeled, sliced potatoes, untreated or dipped for 2 min in sulfite (NaHSO3) and drained, were surface-inoculated at several levels with a mixture of C. botulinum spores, either type A or B, and placed in oxygen-impermeable bags (200 g/bag) that were then vacuum-sealed and incubated at room temperature (22°C). Toxicity was tested on days 0, 3, 4, 5 and 6. After incubation, the potatoes were blended and centrifuged, and the millipore-filtered supernatant fluid was injected intraperitoneally into mice. Sensory evaluation, except taste, was also performed. Potatoes inoculated with C. botulinum type A spores, but untreated with NaHSO3 became toxic in 3 days, which coincided with the sensory evaluation, “Unfit for human consumption.” However, despite inoculum size or residual SO2 levels, potatoes treated with NaHSO3 appeared acceptable for human consumption through day 6, even though they were toxic after 4 days of incubation. Toxicity from type B spores occurred later and in fewer test samples than type A. Again, the potatoes appeared acceptable but were toxic. Thus, although NaHSO3 markedly extended the consumer acceptability of peeled, sliced, raw potatoes at the abuse temperature, it did not inhibit outgrowth and toxin production by C. botulinum under these same conditions.

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