Research – A Comprehensive Review of Variability in The Thermal Resistance (D-Values) of Food-Borne Pathogens—A Challenge for Thermal Validation Trials



The thermal processing of food relies heavily on determining the right time and temperature regime required to inactivate bacterial contaminants to an acceptable limit. To design a thermal processing regime with an accurate time and temperature combination, the D-values of targeted microorganisms are either referred to or estimated. The D-value is the time required at a given temperature to reduce the bacterial population by 90%. The D-value can vary depending on various factors such as the food matrix, the bacterial strain, and the conditions it has previously been exposed to; the intrinsic properties of the food (moisture, water activity, fat content, and pH); the method used to expose the microorganism to the thermal treatment either at the laboratory or commercial scale; the approach used to estimate the number of survivors; and the statistical model used for the analysis of the data. This review focused on Bacillus cereus, Cronobacter sakazakii, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Clostridium perfringens owing to their pathogenicity and the availability of publications on their thermal resistance. The literature indicates a significant variation in D-values reported for the same strain, and it is concluded that when designing thermal processing regimes, the impact of multiple factors on the D-values of a specific microorganism needs to be considered. Further, owing to the complexity of the interactions involved, the effectiveness of regimes derived laboratory data must be confirmed within industrial food processing settings.


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