Six lots of commercial pasteurized process cheese slices were evaluated for the ability to support the growth of four foodborne pathogens, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella serotypes, and Escherichia coli O157:H7, during 4 days of storage at 30°C. Individual cheese slices were inoculated separately with each pathogen to yield ca. 103 CFU/g. Slices were packaged in sterile plastic sample bags and stored at 30°C for up to 96 h. Populations of Salmonella serotypes and Escherichia coli O157:H7 decreased an average of 1.3 and 2.1 log10 CFU/g, respectively, by 36 h and Salmonella serotypes decreased an additional 0.6 logi0 CFU/g during the remaining 60 h. Populations of Listeria monocytogenes also decreased, although to a lesser extent, exhibiting approximately a 0.6-log10 CFU/g reduction in 96 h. Staphylococcus aureus levels remained relatively constant during the testing period, and were below levels that support detectable enterotoxin production. The process cheese slices tested allowed survival but did not support rapid growth of S. aureus, whereas populations of L. monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, and Salmonella serotypes decreased during the 96-h storage at 30°C.

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