Battered poultry products may be wrongly regarded and treated by consumers as ready-to-eat and, as such, be implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks. This study aimed at the quantitative description of the growth behavior of Listeria monocytogenes in fresh, partially cooked (non-ready-to-eat) battered chicken nuggets as function of temperature. Commercially prepared chicken breast nuggets were inoculated with L. monocytogenes and stored at different isothermal conditions (4, 8, 12, and 16 °C). The pathogen's growth behavior was characterized via a two-step predictive modelling approach: estimation of growth kinetic parameters using a primary model, and description of the effect of temperature on the estimated maximum specific growth rate (μmax) using a secondary model. Model evaluation was undertaken using independent growth data under both constant and dynamic temperature conditions. According to the findings of this study, L. monocytogenes may proliferate in battered chicken nuggets in the course of their shelf life to levels potentially hazardous for susceptible population groups, even under well-controlled refrigerated storage conditions. Model evaluation demonstrated a satisfactory performance, where the estimated bias factor (Bf) was 0.92 and 1.08 under constant and dynamic temperature conditions, respectively, while the accuracy factor (Af) value was 1.08, in both cases. The collected data should be useful in model development and quantitative microbiological risk assessment in battered poultry products.
Keywords: Listeria monocytogenes; battered chicken nuggets; growth; modelling; temperature.