The in vitro effects of plant essential oils (EOs) against pathogenic bacteria are well known, yet few studies have addressed the effects of these compounds against pathogens associated with ready-to-cook foods. Experiments were conducted to determine the effectiveness of oregano and nutmeg EOs on the growth and survival of Yersinia enterocolitica and Listeria monocytogenes in broth culture and in Iranian barbecued chicken. Ready-to-cook Iranian barbecued chicken was prepared according to the common practice with 1, 2, and 3 μl/g of oregano and nutmeg EOs. The test and control (without EOs) samples were inoculated with Y. enterocolitica and L. monocytogenes to a final concentration of 6 to 7 log CFU/g and stored at 3, 8, and 20°C. Microorganisms were counted just before and at 24, 48, and 72 h after storage based on growth on Yersinia selective agar supplemented with cefsulodine, igrasan, and novobiocin and on Listeria selective agar supplemented with nalidixic acid and acriflavin. In the broth culture system, the nutmeg EO had a greater effect on L. monocytogenes (MIC = 0.20 μl/ml) than did the oregano EO (MIC = 0.26 μl/ml). However, the oregano EO had a greater effect on Y. enterocolitica (MIC = 0.16 μl/ml) than did the nutmeg EO (MIC = 0.25 μl/ml). In ready-to-cook Iranian barbecued chicken, the log CFU per gram of both bacteria after up to 72 h of incubation was not decreased significantly by various combinations of oregano and nutmeg EOs (1, 2, and 3 μl/g) and storage temperatures (3, 8, and 20°C) when compared with control samples (without EOs). Although examination of spices in culture media can yield accurate microbiological data, without complementary tests in foods these data are of limited value for assessing food safety.

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