This study evaluated the growth of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) in a fresh, filled-pasta meal, stored in modified atmosphere packaging and the influence of lactic acid (LA) and pH on the growth of Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Samples were taken from three lots manufactured by a local catering company and stored at both 6 and 14°C. LAB numbers, LA concentration, pH, and the presence of Lm were evaluated at 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 days of shelf life and the undissociated LA concentration ([LA]) was calculated. The LAB maximum cell density was greater in the products stored at 14°C than those stored at 6°C (10.1 ± 1.1 versus 5.6 ± 1.5 log CFU/g) and [LA] at 14 days was 9 to 21 ppm at 6°C and 509 to 1,887 ppm at 14°C. Challenge tests were made to evaluate the interference of LAB and [LA] on Lm growth. Aliquots of the samples (25 g) were inoculated at 1 to 10 days of shelf life and incubated at 9°C for 7 days, and the difference between Lm numbers at the end and at the beginning of the test (δ) was calculated. Logistic regression was used to model the probability of growth of Lm as a function of LAB and [LA]. The products inoculated at 1 day of shelf life had δ values between 4.2 and 5.6 log CFU/g, but the growth potential was progressively reduced during the shelf life. Lm growth was never observed in the products stored at 14°C. In those stored at 6°C, it grew only in the samples with LAB <5.7 log CFU/g. LAB interaction might thus inhibit the growth of Lmin temperature-abused products and limit its growth in refrigerated products. Logistic regression estimated that the probability of Lm growth was <10% if LAB was >6.6 log CFU/g or log[LA] was >2.2 ppm. The growth or inactivation kinetic of Lm was investigated with a homogenate of three samples with LAB numbers close to the maximum population density. After an initial growth, a subsequent reduction in the number of Lm was observed. This means that the maximum numbers of Lm might not be detected at the end of the product shelf life.
MAP and refrigeration were found to be a fruitful hurdle in filled-pasta meals.
Higher growth of LAB at 14°C negatively affected the growth potential of Listeria sp.
Listeria sp. numbers might decline after an initial growth during the shelf life.
The maximum number of Listeria sp. is not always at the end of the product shelf life.