The problem of Staphylococcus aureus and other species as contaminants in the food supply remains significant on a global level. Time and temperature abuse of a food product contaminated with enterotoxigenic staphylococci can result in formation of enterotoxin, which can produce foodborne illness when the product is ingested. Between 100 and 200 ng of enterotoxin can cause symptoms consistent with staphylococcal intoxication. Although humans are the primary reservoirs of contamination, animals, air, dust, and food contact surfaces can serve as vehicles in the transfer of this pathogen to the food supply. Foods may become contaminated during production or processing and in homes or food establishments, where the organism can proliferate to high concentrations and subsequently produce enterotoxin. The staphylococcal enterotoxins are highly heat stable and can remain biologically active after exposure to retort temperatures. Prior to the development of serological methods for the identification of enterotoxin, monkeys (gastric intubation) and later kittens (intravenous injection) were used in assays for toxin detection. When enterotoxins were identified as mature proteins that were antigenic, serological assays were developed for use in the laboratory analysis of foods suspected of containing preformed enterotoxin. More recently developed methods are tracer-labeled immunoassays. Of these methods, the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays are highly specific, highly sensitive, and rapid for the detection of enterotoxin in foods.

This content is only available as a PDF.