Abstract: The objective of this study was to investigate the growth of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC, including serogroups O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145) in raw ground beef and to develop mathematical models to describe the bacterial growth under different temperature conditions. Three primary growth models were evaluated, including the Baranyi model, the Huang 2008 model, and a new growth model that is based on the communication of messenger signals during bacterial growth. A 5 strain cocktail of freshly prepared STEC was inoculated to raw ground beef samples and incubated at temperatures ranging from 10 to 35 °C at 5 °C increments. Minimum relative growth (<1 log10 cfu/g) was observed at 10 °C, whereas at other temperatures, all 3 phases of growth were observed. Analytical results showed that all 3 models were equally suitable for describing the bacterial growth under constant temperatures. The maximum cell density of STEC in raw ground beef increased exponentially with temperature, but reached a maximum of 8.53 log10 cfu/g of ground beef. The specific growth rates estimated by the 3 primary models were practically identical and can be evaluated by either the Ratkowsky square-root model or a Bělehrádek-type model. The temperature dependence of lag phase development for all 3 primary models was also developed. The results of this study can be used to estimate the growth of STEC in raw ground beef at temperatures between 10 and 35 °C.
Practical Application: Incidents of foodborne infections caused by non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have increased in recent years. This study reports the growth kinetics and mathematical modeling of STEC in ground beef. The mathematical models can be used in risk assessment of STEC in ground beef.