Microbiology and Safety of Ready-to-Eat Products

A special issue of Foods (ISSN 2304-8158). This special issue belongs to the section "Food Microbiology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2022) | Viewed by 8970

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Guest Editor
CBQF - Centro de Biotecnologia e Química Fina – Laboratório Associado, Escola Superior de Biotecnologia, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Porto, Portugal
Interests: food microbiology; food safety; food quality; food biotechnology
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A variety of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods has been developed to meet consumers’ demand for more convenient food. These include products such as fruits and vegetables, cooked/smoked/sliced meat, and smoked/salted fish and seafood. Outbreaks caused by diverse foodborne pathogens linked with RTE product consumption have been reported worldwide in past years. Additionally, spoilage bacteria may also be present, contributing to great losses in food quality.

There are several possible reservoirs for bacterial contamination of RTE foods, such as food preparation surfaces, handling such as peeling and cutting, and equipment for slicing or packaging. In addition to the proper and regular disinfection required, other methods are necessary to assure the control of foodborne pathogens and the subsequent safety of RTE foods. Refrigeration, modified atmosphere packaging, high pressure processing, pasteurization, and edible antimicrobial coatings are some of the different techniques continuously explored to assure the safety and to improve the shelf life of RTE foods.

The scope of this Special Issue is to gather the latest findings on the microbiological quality and shelf-life stability of different RTE products and on the exploitation of different technologies/approaches to improve their safety. Validated mathematical models of predictive microbiology are also welcome.

Dr. Joana Inês Bastos Barbosa
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • contamination sources
  • foodborne pathogens
  • microbiological quality
  • predictive microbiology
  • prevention and control
  • ready-to-eat fish and seafood
  • ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables
  • ready-to-eat meats
  • technological hurdles

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

12 pages, 2973 KiB  
Article
Microbiological Safety of Cut Melons Sold in Portuguese Retail Markets: A Pilot Study
by Yu Hsuan Tseng, Joana Barbosa, Teresa Bento de Carvalho and Paula Teixeira
Foods 2022, 11(24), 4010; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11244010 - 11 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1580
Abstract
Due to the increasing consciousness of a healthy diet and pursuit of convenience among consumers, the market for fresh fruit is on the rise, and the melon is among the most welcome of fruits for its sensory attributes and nutritional properties. Consumption safety [...] Read more.
Due to the increasing consciousness of a healthy diet and pursuit of convenience among consumers, the market for fresh fruit is on the rise, and the melon is among the most welcome of fruits for its sensory attributes and nutritional properties. Consumption safety of cut fruit remains an issue of concern that may affect public health. This study aimed to perform the microbiological characterisation of a melon, Cucumis melo L. var. “Piel de Sapo”, cut by retailers, wrapped in plastic cling film and kept at room temperature in local fruit shops. In addition, the possible transfer of relevant foodborne pathogens, during slicing, from the peel to the interior of the melon, and bacterial growth, were also evaluated when the melon slices were stored at abusive temperatures for 2 days. In this pilot study, a low number of samples were characterised microbiologically (26 cut melons), and some isolates were identified by 16S rRNA sequencing. No Listeria spp. or Salmonella spp. were detected in any of the samples, while Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus were present in four and six out of twenty-six samples, respectively. Following artificial contamination of melons with cocktails of Salmonella spp., E. coli and Listeria monocytogenes, it was observed that, despite the smaller number of L. monocytogenes recovered, all the pathogens were transferred from the contaminated peels to the interior of the melons. Furthermore, over storage time, significant differences were observed (p < 0.05) between the counts obtained from melon slices immediately after cutting (0 h), and after 24 and 48 h at 20 °C, with an increase of about 4 log CFU/g in all the pathogens. In conclusion, some cut melons classified as microbiologically unacceptable or unsatisfactory are being sold in local fruit shops in the Porto Metropolitan Area, Portugal. Although absent in the samples analysed, Salmonella spp. and L. monocytogenes, if present, can be transferred from the outside to the inside of the fruit by the cutting blade and, if not consumed immediately and stored at abusive temperatures, this ready-to-eat product poses a risk of infection. This pilot study, performed for the first time in Portugal under these conditions, clearly demonstrates the need for education campaigns to alert local sellers and consumers of the risk posed by cut melons. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microbiology and Safety of Ready-to-Eat Products)
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16 pages, 801 KiB  
Article
Characterization of Antibiotic Resistant Coliform Bacteria and Resistance Genes Isolated from Samples of Smoothie Drinks and Raw Milk
by Monika Krahulcová, Klára Cverenkárová, Petra Olejníková, Barbora Micajová, Júlia Koreneková and Lucia Bírošová
Foods 2022, 11(9), 1324; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11091324 - 1 May 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2627
Abstract
Raw foodstuffs have been marked as a healthier alternative in the context of nutrient content and are becoming more popular with consumers. Thermally untreated foods may represent a microbiological risk connected with the possible presence of antimicrobial resistance. The aim of this study [...] Read more.
Raw foodstuffs have been marked as a healthier alternative in the context of nutrient content and are becoming more popular with consumers. Thermally untreated foods may represent a microbiological risk connected with the possible presence of antimicrobial resistance. The aim of this study was to prove that popular raw food beverages such as smoothies and raw milk may be a source of antibiotic-resistant coliform bacteria and resistant genes. The majority of antibiotic-resistant isolates (110) were identified as Enterobacter spp., Escherichia coli, and species of Klebsiella spp., predominantly β-lactam and chloramphenicol resistant. Multidrug resistance has been registered in one-third of resistants. Overproduction of efflux pumps was clarified in 8 different bacteria. The majority of resistant isolates were strong biofilm producers. Antibiotic resistance gene blaOXA was detected in 25% of isolates, especially in E. coli. Resistance genes blaTEM and blaSHV were detected in 19% and 14%, respectively. This is the first study to point out that popular raw drinks such as smoothies or raw milk, besides their nutrient benefits, could represent a reservoir of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as antibiotic resistance genes. According to this, raw drinks could contribute to the dissemination of antibiotic resistance in the human gastrointestinal tract and environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microbiology and Safety of Ready-to-Eat Products)
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22 pages, 2424 KiB  
Article
Expiration Date of Ready-to-Eat Salads: Effects on Microbial Load and Biochemical Attributes
by Panayiota Xylia, George Botsaris, Panagiotis Skandamis and Nikolaos Tzortzakis
Foods 2021, 10(5), 941; https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10050941 - 25 Apr 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3630
Abstract
When minimally processed vegetables reach their expiration date, expose an increased microbial load. This includes mainly spoilage microorganisms but also foodborne pathogens, thus affecting the quality and safety of highly consumed ready-to-eat salads. A total of 144 ready-to-eat salads from the Cypriot market [...] Read more.
When minimally processed vegetables reach their expiration date, expose an increased microbial load. This includes mainly spoilage microorganisms but also foodborne pathogens, thus affecting the quality and safety of highly consumed ready-to-eat salads. A total of 144 ready-to-eat salads from the Cypriot market were analyzed in an attempt to determine the effects of the expiration date on the microbial load and plant metabolic variables of the salads. Possible correlations between them were also investigated for the first time. Furthermore, the impacts of the season (winter, summer), salad producing companies and type of salad and/or their interactions with the tested parameters were investigated. Results revealed that the microbial load (mainly spoilage microorganisms, such as Pseudomonas spp., yeasts and molds) increased towards the end of the shelf life. The microbial load was differentiated among the five salad producers and/or the salad types, highlighting the importance of a common and safe sanitation-processing chain in the preparation of ready-to-eat salads. Summer was the season in which Escherichia coli counts were found to be higher for plain lettuce, while Staphylococcus spp. was increased numbers for the lettuce+endive/radicchio, lettuce+rocket and lettuce+chives type of salads. Additionally, an increased Staphylococcus spp. was observed for plain rocket salads in winter. All samples examined were found negative for Salmonella enterica and Listeria monocytogenes. Moreover, carbon dioxide production and damage indexes (hydrogen peroxide and lipid peroxidation) increased on expiration date on both winter and summer seasons, indicating plant tissue stress at the end of shelf life. These findings indicate that the expiration date and relevant shelf life of processed vegetables are important parameters to be considered when postharvest management is applied to these products, ensuring safety and quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microbiology and Safety of Ready-to-Eat Products)
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