This Opinion reviews the factors that affect microbial survival and growth in composite products, and in foods in general. It concludes that the main factors to be considered are: water activity, pH, temperature and duration of storage, processing, and intensity and duration of other non-thermal physical processes applied. Prevalence and concentration of the pathogens in food are important to determine the risk for consumers. The opinion presents a review of the quantitative microbiology models and databases that can be used to provide quantitative estimations of the impact of the above factors on the survival and growth of the main bacterial pathogens. In composite products, migration and diffusion of moisture and substances among the ingredients may change their physico-chemical parameters, particularly at the interfaces. Therefore, the assessment of the risk posed by composite products needs to consider the combinations of parameters most permissive to survival and growth of pathogens. Two complementary approaches are proposed for the identification and profiling of microbiological hazards in different specific composite products. The first one is based on past outbreaks and prevalence of hazards in the products and leads to the conclusion that the most frequent hazard-composite product combinations are Salmonella in cakes and bakery products. The second one consists in decision tools based on the impact on the pathogens of food composition and food processing. Categorisation of the risk for composite products requires information on their composition, processing and further handling, which can largely differ for foods belonging to the same category. Further conditions may influence the risk and should be verified, i.e. hygienic conditions during preparation of the composite products and their ingredients, shelf-life conditions, and reliability of cooking by consumers to inactivate pathogens. The decision tools developed apply to all composite products considered by the mandate, as well as to all other foods.
EFSA Publication (2012). EFSA Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ); Scientific Opinion on public health risks represented by certain composite products containing food of animal origin. European Food Safety Authority. the EFSA Journal, No. 2662, Vol.. 10(5) https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2662