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Octanoic acid: a matter of taste

According to a new study, using octanoic acid treatments on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products is an effective means of killing pathogens such as Listeria without much effect on taste.

In a study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Food Protection, whole-muscle and broken ready-to-eat products (RTE) were inoculated with a five-strain mixture of Listeria monocytogenes.
The products tested included oil-browned turkey and cured ham. Once sealed, the vacuum-packaged RTE products containing the acid were immersed in water heated to 93.3°C (200°F) for two seconds to effect adequate film shrinkage. Once treated, the RTE products were examined for survivor populations of L. monocytogenes after 24 hours of storage at 5°C.
The study found that the octanoic treatment of RTE products reduced L. monocytogenes numbers below the maximum allowed levels under current food safety practices, the scientists said.
The taste evaluation was conducted with a 60-member trained panel on 11 uninoculated, treated RTE products. The results from the sensory evaluation demonstrated that 10 of the 11 treated RTE products were not perceived as different from the untreated samples.
All of the six scientists conducting the research are affiliated with Ecolab's research centre in Minnesota, US. Ecolab is a major producers of octanoic acid treatments for the food industry. The treatments are approved wordwide for use as a processing aid in water in various formulations. It can be used as an antimicrobial treatment on red meat and poultry carcasses.
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