Research – Physical Treatments to Control Clostridium botulinum Hazards in Food



Clostridium botulinum produces Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs), causing a rare but potentially deadly type of food poisoning called foodborne botulism. This review aims to provide information on the bacterium, spores, toxins, and botulisms, and describe the use of physical treatments (e.g., heating, pressure, irradiation, and other emerging technologies) to control this biological hazard in food. As the spores of this bacterium can resist various harsh environmental conditions, such as high temperatures, the thermal inactivation of 12-log of C. botulinum type A spores remains the standard for the commercial sterilization of food products. However, recent advancements in non-thermal physical treatments present an alternative to thermal sterilization with some limitations. Low- (<2 kGy) and medium (3–5 kGy)-dose ionizing irradiations are effective for a log reduction of vegetative cells and spores, respectively; however, very high doses (>10 kGy) are required to inactivate BoNTs. High-pressure processing (HPP), even at 1.5 GPa, does not inactivate the spores and requires heat combination to achieve its goal. Other emerging technologies have also shown some promise against vegetative cells and spores; however, their application to C. botulinum is very limited. Various factors related to bacteria (e.g., vegetative stage, growth conditions, injury status, type of bacteria, etc.) food matrix (e.g., compositions, state, pH, temperature, aw, etc.), and the method (e.g., power, energy, frequency, distance from the source to target, etc.) influence the efficacy of these treatments against C. botulinum. Moreover, the mode of action of different physical technologies is different, which provides an opportunity to combine different physical treatment methods in order to achieve additive and/or synergistic effects. This review is intended to guide the decision-makers, researchers, and educators in using physical treatments to control C. botulinum hazards.

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