The effect of heating rate on the heat resistance, germination, and outgrowth of Clostridium perfringens spores during cooking of cured ground pork was investigated. Inoculated cured ground pork portions were heated from 20 to 75°C at a rate of 4, 8, or 12°C/h and then held at 75°C for 48 h. No significant differences (P > 0.05) in the heat resistance of C. perfringens spores were observed in cured ground pork heated at 4, 8, or 12°C/h. At heating rates of 8 and 12°C/h, no significant differences in the germination and outgrowth of spores were observed (P > 0.05). However, when pork was heated at 4°C/h, growth of C. perfringens occurred when the temperature of the product was between 44 and 56°C. In another set of experiments, the behavior of C. perfringens spores under temperature abuse conditions was studied in cured and noncured ground pork heated at 4°C/h and then cooled from 54.4 to 7.2°C within 20 h. Temperature abuse during cooling of noncured ground pork resulted in a 2.8-log CFU/g increase in C. perfringens. In cured ground pork, C. perfringens decreased by 1.1 log CFU/g during cooling from 54.4 to 36.3°C and then increased by 0.9 log CFU/g until the product reached 7.2°C. Even when the initial level of C. perfringens spores in cured ground pork was 5 log CFU/g, the final counts after abusive cooling did not exceed 3.4 log CFU/g. These results suggest that there is no risk associated with C. perfringens in cured pork products under the tested conditions.

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Author notes

Present address: Departamento de Farmacobiología, Centro Universitario de Ciencias Exactas e Ingenierías, Universidad de Guadalajara, Boulevard Marcelino García Barragán 1451, Colonia Olímpica, Guadalajara, Jalisco 44430, México.

Present address: IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group, 15300 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park, WA 98155, USA.