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Compiled By: Julie A. Albrecht, Ph.D., Associate Professor
The Organism: Clostridium perfringens are anaerobic bacteria that can produce spores. The bacteria can exist as a vegetative cell or in the dormant spore form in food. Thorough cooking (140ºF) will kill the vegetative cells, but spores may survive. At temperatures between 70ºF and 120ºF, the spores can germinate into vegetative cells and produce a toxin. Germination of the spores and outgrowth into vegetative cells occurs in food inadequately refrigerated. Toxin production normally occurs in the intestinal tract.
Sources of the organism:
- Intestinal tracts of animals and humans
- Any raw food may contain the spore or bacteria
- Cooked meat and poultry products
- Roast beef
Microorganism Characteristics: Gram positive spore forming anaerobic rod shaped bacteria that can produce an enterotoxin which is released in the intestine.
- Temperature range: 15-55ºC (59-131ºF)
- Optimum Temperature: 43-47ºC (109-117ºF)
- pH range: 5-9
- Lowest reported Aw for growth: 0.96
- Salt Tolerance: 5%
The Disease: Perfringens food poisoning causes gastroenteritis from consuming the vegetative cells. A toxin can be produced by the bacteria in the intestinal tract which can also cause a food borne illness.
- Abdominal cramps
- Watery diarrhea
- 8-24 hours
- Large numbers (>108 cells) of Clostridium perfringens need to be consumed for symptoms of the illness to develop.
Duration of symptoms:
- 24-48 hours
- Properly cook meat and poultry products.
- Reheat foods to 165ºF for 15 seconds.
- Refrigerate foods at 41ºF or below. Foods must reach 41ºF within 4 hours.
- Proper cooling techniques are necessary to prevent spore germination.