The predominant lactic acid bacteria (LAB) microbiota associated with three types of modified atmosphere packaged (MAP) sliced cooked meat products (i.e. ham, turkey and chicken) was analyzed at sell-by date using a combination of culturing and molecular population fingerprinting. Likewise routine analyses during industrial MAP production, meat samples were plated on the general heterotrophic Plate Count Agar (PCA) and on the LAB-specific de Man, Rogosa, Sharpe (MRS) agar under different temperature and atmosphere conditions. Subsequently, community DNA extracts were prepared from culturable bacterial fractions harvested from both media and used for PCR targeting the V3 hyper-variable region of the 16S rRNA gene followed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) of PCR amplicons (PCR-DGGE). Irrespective of aerobic or anaerobic incubation conditions, V3-16S rDNA DGGE fingerprints of culturable fractions from PCA and MRS medium displayed a high level of similarity indicating that LAB constituted the most dominant group in the culturable bacterial community. Comparison of DGGE profiles of fractions grown at 20, 28 or 37 °C indicated that part of the culturable community consisted of psychrotrophs. Four DGGE bands were common among cooked ham, turkey and chicken products, suggesting that these represent the microbiota circulating in the plant where all three MAP product types were sliced and packaged. Based on band sequencing and band position analysis using LAB reference strains, these four bands could be assigned to Lactobacillus sakei and/or the closely related Lactobacillus fuchuensis, Lactobacillus curvatus, Carnobacterium divergens and Leuconostoc carnosum. In conclusion, the PCR-DGGE approach described in this study allows to discriminate, identify and monitor core and occasional LAB microbiota of MAP sliced cooked meat products and provides valuable complementary information to the current plating procedures routinely used in industrial plants. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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