After a number of foodborne outbreaks of verotoxigenic Escherichia coli involving fermented sausages, some countries have imposed regulations on sausage production. For example, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service requires a 5 log(10) reduction of E. coli in fermented products. Such regulations have led to a number of studies on the inactivation of E. coli in fermented sausages by changing processing and post-processing conditions. Several factors influence the survival of E. coli such as pre-treatment of the meat, amount of NaCl, nitrite and lactic acid, water activity, pH, choice of starter cultures and addition of antimicrobial compounds. Also process variables like fermentation temperature and storage time play important roles. Though a large variety of different production processes of sausages exist, generally the reduction of E. coli caused by production is in the range 1-2 log(10). In many cases this may not be enough to ensure microbial food safety. By optimising ingredients and process parameters it is possible to increase E. coli reduction to some extent, but in some cases still other post process treatments may be required. Such treatments may be storage at ambient temperatures, specific heat treatments, high pressure processing or irradiation. HACCP analyses have identified the quality of the raw materials, low temperature in the batter when preparing the sausages and a rapid pH drop during fermentation as critical control points in sausage production. This review summarises the literature on the reduction verotoxigenic E. coli in production of fermented sausages.
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