The current study aimed to develop an inactivation strategy for Clostridium perfringens spores in meat through a combination of spore activation at low pressure (100-200 MPa, 7 min) and elevated temperature (80 °C, 10 min); spore germination at high temperatures (55, 60 or 65 °C); and inactivation of germinated spores with elevated temperatures (80 and 90 °C, 10 and 20 min) and high pressure (586 MPa, at 23 and 73 °C, 10 min). Low pressures (100-200 MPa) were insufficient to efficiently activate C. perfringens spores for germination. However, C. perfringens spores were efficiently activated with elevated temperature (80 °C, 10 min), and germinated at temperatures lethal for vegetative cells (≥55 °C) when incubated for 60 min with a mixture of l-asparagine and KCl (AK) in phosphate buffer (pH 7) and in poultry meat. Inactivation of spores (∼4 decimal reduction) in meat by elevated temperatures (80-90 °C for 20 min) required a long germination period (55 °C for 60 min). However, similar inactivation level was reached with shorter germination period (55 °C for 15 min) when spore contaminated-meat was treated with pressure-assisted thermal processing (568 MPa, 73 °C, 10 min). Therefore, the most efficient strategy to inactivate C. perfringens spores in poultry meat containing 50 mM AK consisted: (i) a primary heat treatment (80 °C, 10 min) to pasteurize and denature the meat proteins and to activate C. perfringens spores for germination; (ii) cooling of the product to 55 °C in about 20 min and further incubation at 55 °C for about 15 min for spore germination; and (iii) inactivation of germinated spores by pressure-assisted thermal processing (586 MPa at 73 °C for 10 min). Collectively, this study demonstrates the feasibility of an alternative and novel strategy to inactivate C. perfringens spores in meat products formulated with germinants specific for C. perfringens.
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