Non-toxic Clostridium botulinum strains and their contribution to product and process innovations
Consumers' increasing demand for clean label products such as ready meals, means food companies are continuously investing in innovations regarding conservatives and the treatment of food products. For example, in the meat industry the focus is on replacing nitrate additives (e.g. E 250) and its precursor nitrate (e.g. ovv E 251) due to growing concerns regarding the health aspects of nitrite.
These trends also include risks for food safety. Probably the most important spore-forming bacteria that must be kept under control in products is Clostridium botulinum. On the one hand, because nitrite has a performant inhibiting effect against this organism (EFSA 2003: 50-150 mg/kg nitrite essential) and, on the other hand, because there are psychrotrophic strains that are of great concern regarding foodstuffs that must be refrigerated.
Suitable product and process adaptations are thus needed to keep C. botulinum under control. 'Label friendly’ alternatives must be identified that show anticlostridial activity when replacing nitrate and nitrite. Optimum process parameters in combination with supplementary product conditioning (pH, aw, temperature, organic acids, packaging atmosphere) must be examined for processing.
Challenge tests are essential for assessing these adaptations for their effectiveness against C. botulinum. The classic challenge tests for C. botulinum require exceptional safety measures, specific (anaerobe) growth conditions and specialised personnel. There is also no selective culture for C. botulinum, which is not beneficial to plate counts because the target cells are difficult to differentiate from the background microbiota. All of this decreases the degree to which these classic tests can be applied. A solution to this challenge is using marked, non-toxic C. botulinum strains. For example, gene technology makes it possible to develop attenuated C. botulinum that are non-toxic but have other properties that are equivalent to the pathogenic variant.
BotulinSafe is a collective research project (type VIS-CO) that wants to use these non-toxic C. botulinum strains with the objective of:
We wish to obtain this objective by:
We expect the following results from the BotulinSafe project:
The project is, in the first place, geared towards meat processers and ready-made meal producers who have a positive attitude toward or export to countries with strict regulations regarding C. botulinum-related food safety risks. In addition, the results may also have added value for ingredient suppliers and commercial analytical laboratories.
Flanders’ FOOD manages and coordinates the project.
Responsibility for the execution: