Dry-fermented sausages (DFS) are considered possible risk products regarding Shiga toxigenic Escherichia coli (STEC). We have compared the reduction of 11 E. coli isolates of various serogroups in salami during the sausage production process and during post-process measures including storage, heating and freezing. The 11 E. coli isolates, mainly STEC, included enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) outbreak strains linked to DFS along with apathogenic E. coli. During sausage production, there was a statistically significant difference in reduction between the E. coli strains ranging from 1.3 to 2.4 log₁₀ (p<0.001). When sausages were subjected to post-process heat treatment of 43 °C for 24 h, a total reduction of more than 5 log₁₀ was obtained for all E. coli isolates. Freezing and thawing of DFS with subsequent storage for 1 month at 16 or 20 °C generally contributed to large E. coli reductions with the latter conditions giving an average additional 3.9 log₁₀ reduction, with a range from 3.4 to 4.4 log₁₀. The combination of freezing and 1 month of storage gave higher reductions compared with storage for 2 months for all examined temperatures. No systematic differences in survival of E. coli of different serogroups were detected for the different post-process measures. The reductions were also similar to those of apathogenic control isolates. Isolates showing higher survival during the ripening process did not have a lower reduction when exposed to post-process stress like storage, heating and freezing. The ability of the isolates to survive in salami was also compared with their survival at equivalent conditions in a tryptic soy broth (TSB) model. There was a low and not significant correlation (p>0.1) between the reductions of E. coli in salami and in the TSB broth model. Results based on broth models and/or single or surrogate strains must therefore be interpreted with caution. The EHEC reducing post-processing measures tested can easily be implemented in DFS production with marginal influence on the quality of the sausages.
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