The relative incidence of Psychrobacter spp. in rabbit meat, the radioresistance of these bacteria, and the growth of nonirradiated and irradiated psychrobacter isolates, alone and in coculture, during chilled storage of inoculated sterile rabbit meat was investigated. Psychrobacter spp. accounted for 4.2% of the storage psychrotrophic flora of 30 rabbit carcasses. The radiation D10-values of 10 Psychrobacter isolates, irradiated at 4°C in minced rabbit meat, ranged from 0.8 to 2.0 kGy, with significant (P < 0.05) differences among strains. Over 12 days of storage at 4°C, pure cultures of two nonirradiated psychrobacter strains (D10 = 2 kGy) were capable of substantial increases (up to 3 log CFU/g) in sterile rabbit meat, but when the fastest growing strain was cocultured with Pseudomonas fluorescens and Brochothrix thermosphacta isolates, maximum cell densities and growth rates were significantly (P < 0.01) lower. After irradiation (2.5 kGy) of pure cultures in sterile rabbit meat, surviving cells of both Psychrobacter strains decreased for a period of 5 to 7 days and then resumed multiplication that, at day 12, resulted in a similar increase (1.6 to 1.7 log CFU/g) over initial survivor numbers. When irradiated in combination with the spoilage bacteria, one of the strains required 12 days to reach initial numbers. In conclusion, Psychrobacter spp. are radioresistant nonsporeforming bacteria with a low relative incidence among the storage flora of rabbit meat, unable to compete with food spoilage bacteria in this ecosystem and apparently not a major contributor to the spoilage of rabbit meat after irradiation.

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