Natural and organic processed pork products such as frankfurters, bacon and hams are required to use modified meat curing methods to qualify as natural or organic because traditional preservatives are not permitted in these products. One result of this is likely to be reduced antimicrobial protection in these products and a potential for greater risk of growth of food-borne pathogens because nitrite, used in conventional curing is a very effective
antimicrobial agent. This project was initiated to first evaluate a representative sampling of commercially available natural and organic frankfurters, bacon and hams for cured meat properties important to microbial control with the objective of identifying the major differences in these products important to control of bacterial pathogens. The results of this phase of the project showed that residual nitrite concentration was the cured meat property that differed the most when comparing natural and organic cured meats with conventionally cured meats. Because nitrite is a powerful antimicrobial agent, this result supported the first hypothesis for this project (greater risk of pathogen growth on natural and organic cured meats). To test the hypothesis that there is greater potential for growth of pathogens on natural and organic products, the same brands of commercial products analyzed in phase one were again purchased and inoculated with Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium perfringens to assess the potential for growth of the pathogens. This phase of the project confirmed that pathogenic bacteria are likely to grow faster and more quickly on natural and organic frankfurters, hams and bacon than on conventionally cured products of the same type. To meet the third objective of this project, the research investigated the addition of supplemental antimicrobial agents from natural sources that would be good candidates for addition to natural and organic processed meats. This phase of the projects demonstrated that addition of natural sources of acetic acid as vinegar, citric acid as lemon juice powder and natural lactate provided effective supplemental antimicrobial control for natural and organic processed pork products. The results of this research provide a means by which natural and organic cured pork products can be produced with a continued acheivement of safety for consumers that is similar to that of conventionally cured pork products. Contact information: Joe Sebranek, 215 Meat Laboratory, Ames, IA. 50011; [email protected]