Predicting pathogen growth during short-term temperature abuse of raw pork, beef, and poultry products: use of an isothermal-based predictive tool

J Food Prot. 2007 Jun;70(6):1446-56. doi: 10.4315/0362-028x-70.6.1446.


A computer-based tool (available at: was developed for predicting pathogen growth in raw pork, beef, and poultry meat. The tool, THERM (temperature history evaluation for raw meats), predicts the growth of pathogens in pork and beef (Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella serovars, and Staphylococcus aureus) and on poultry (Salmonella serovars and S. aureus) during short-term temperature abuse. The model was developed as follows: 25-g samples of raw ground pork, beef, and turkey were inoculated with a five-strain cocktail of the target pathogen(s) and held at isothermal temperatures from 10 to 43.3 degrees C. Log CFU per sample data were obtained for each pathogen and used to determine lag-phase duration (LPD) and growth rate (GR) by DMFit software. The LPD and GR were used to develop the THERM predictive tool, into which chronological time and temperature data for raw meat processing and storage are entered. The THERM tool then predicts a delta log CFU value for the desired pathogen-product combination. The accuracy of THERM was tested in 20 different inoculation experiments that involved multiple products (coarse-ground beef, skinless chicken breast meat, turkey scapula meat, and ground turkey) and temperature-abuse scenarios. With the time-temperature data from each experiment, THERM accurately predicted the pathogen growth and no growth (with growth defined as delta log CFU > 0.3) in 67, 85, and 95% of the experiments with E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella serovars, and S. aureus, respectively, and yielded fail-safe predictions in the remaining experiments. We conclude that THERM is a useful tool for qualitatively predicting pathogen behavior (growth and no growth) in raw meats. Potential applications include evaluating process deviations and critical limits under the HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point) system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Escherichia coli O157 / growth & development*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Meat Products / microbiology*
  • Poultry
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Salmonella / growth & development*
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development*
  • Swine
  • Temperature*