Spores of foodborne pathogens can survive traditional thermal processing schedules used in the manufacturing of processed meat products. Heat-activated spores can germinate and grow to hazardous levels when these products are improperly chilled. Germination and outgrowth of Clostridium perfringens spores in roast beef during chilling was studied following simulated cooling schedules normally used in the processed-meat industry. Inhibitory effects of organic acid salts on germination and outgrowth of C. perfringens spores during chilling and the survival of vegetative cells and spores under abusive refrigerated storage was also evaluated. Beef top rounds were formulated to contain a marinade (finished product concentrations: 1% salt, 0.2% potassium tetrapyrophosphate, and 0.2% starch) and then ground and mixed with antimicrobials (sodium lactate and sodium lactate plus 2.5% sodium diacetate and buffered sodium citrate and buffered sodium citrate plus 1.3% sodium diacetate). The ground product was inoculated with a three-strain cocktail of C. perfringens spores (NCTC 8238, NCTC 8239, and ATCC 10388), mixed, vacuum packaged, heat shocked for 20 min at 75 degrees C, and chilled exponentially from 54.5 to 7.2 degrees C in 9, 12, 15, 18, or 21 h. C. perfringens populations (total and spore) were enumerated after heat shock, during chilling, and during storage for up to 60 days at 10 degrees C using tryptose-sulfite-cycloserine agar. C. perfringens spores were able to germinate and grow in roast beef (control, without any antimicrobials) from an initial population of ca. 3.1 log CFU/g by 2.00, 3.44, 4.04, 4.86, and 5.72 log CFU/g after 9, 12, 15, 18, and 21 h of exponential chilling. A predictive model was developed to describe sigmoidal C. perfringens growth curves during cooling of roast beef from 54.5 to 7.2 degrees C within 9, 12, 15, 18, and 21 h. Addition of antimicrobials prevented germination and outgrowth of C. perfringens regardless of the chill times. C. perfringens spores could be recovered from samples containing organic acid salts that were stored up to 60 days at 10 degrees C. Extension of chilling time to > or =9 h resulted in >1 log CFU/g growth of C. perfringens under anaerobic conditions in roast beef. Organic acid salts inhibited outgrowth of C. perfringens spores during chilling of roast beef when extended chill rates were followed. Although C. perfringens spore germination is inhibited by the antimicrobials, this inhibition may represent a hazard when such products are incorporated into new products, such as soups and chili, that do not contain these antimicrobials, thus allowing spore germination and outgrowth under conditions of temperature abuse.