Journal of Applied Microbiology vol:100 issue:4 pages:800-812
Aims: The variability in growth between individual Listeria monocytogenes cells was investigated on liver pate and cooked ham. These results were compared to Monte Carlo simulations based on data collected previously in broths (Francois et al., submitted for publication). Methods and Results: Single cells were isolated by a dilution protocol and inoculated on 15 g samples of liver pate and cooked ham, pasteurized in the packaging. Of each product, 250 samples were inoculated, of which 50 samples were analysed for L. monocytogenes on each analysis day. Results were compared to simulations, based on distributions that describe the variability of the individual cell lag phases and generation times of L. monocytogenes cultivated in broths. Based on the same simulation techniques, the variability effect was investigated for different inoculum levels (10, 100, 1000 and 10 000 cells). It was demonstrated that the expected variability of the outgrowth of L. monocytogenes in a challenge test is very high for low inoculum levels. Conclusions: The variability in growth characteristics observed between different single L. monocytogenes cells on foods is very large. The simulations based on the previously collected optical density data in broths, could be confirmed by foods inoculated with single L. monocytogenes cells. Significan ce and Impact of the Study: The large variability between different individual L. monocytogenes cells has serious consequences for the experimental design of a challenge test. One thousand cells per portion are necessary in order to reduce the variability to acceptable levels and quantify the behaviour of the pathogen consistently with a reasonable number of challenge tests.