Behavior of Clostridium perfringens at low temperatures

A.E.I. de Jong, F.M. Rombouts, R.R. Beumer

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Refrigerated storage is an important step in the preparation of foods and inadequate storage is one of the main causes of food poisoning outbreaks of Clostridium perfringens. Therefore, growth and germination characteristics of C. perfringens in a temperature range of 3-42 degreesC were determined in fluid thioglycollate broth (FTG) and Dutch pea soup. To study the effect of adaptation, cells were either inoculated from a 37 degreesC pre-culture or from a temperature-adapted pre-culture. Membrane fatty acid patterns were determined at all temperatures to examine the effect of temperature on membrane composition. Spores were either inoculated with and without heat treatment. Adaptation of cells did not influence growth rate nor lag phase. Growth in pea soup, however, was slower and lag phases tended to be more extended compared to FTG. No growth was observed at temperatures less than or equal to 10 degreesC and death rates in pea soup were higher than those in FTG at these low temperatures. Cells preserved the membrane fluidity by reducing the arachidic acid content and increasing the lauric acid content when the temperature dropped. This resulted in a net reduction in chain length. Microscopic analysis of cells grown at 15 degreesC revealed a morphological change: cells were elongated compared to those grown at 37 degreesC. These data demonstrate the ability of C. perfringens to adapt to lower temperatures. However, this did not influence growth characteristics compared to non-adapted cells. Spores of C perfringens did germinate at all temperatures with and without heat-activation. Combining this fact with the extended survival at low temperatures emphasizes the need for adequate heating of refrigerated foods before consumption to eliminate health risks due to C perfringens. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • listeria-monocytogenes
  • refrigerated foods
  • fatty-acid
  • growth
  • sporulation
  • beef
  • spores
  • vacuum
  • germination
  • resistance


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