Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Degree Program

Food Science

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



246 samples of bulk and packaged spices from retail stores in the western, southeastern, southern, midwestern, and northeastern areas of the U.S. were examined for the presence of Clostridium -perfringens. Isolates were checked for the presence of the lecithinase gene (cpa) and enterotoxin genes (cpe) by PCR. Enterotoxin formation during sporulation was investigated using the Oxoid Toxin Detection Kit. Forty-three confirmed isolates (from 17% of total samples) were cpa-positive. Of those, 27 were cpe-positive. Together, levels of C. perfringens spores ranged from 3.6-2400/gm. The amount of enterotoxin in cell extracts ranged from 2-16 ng/ml. Some of the SEM images of isolated spore (# 78) and one plasmid-borne ent control (FD-153) showed an organized surface structure termed “candy-wrapper”. This extracellular structure remained after treatment with 0.1 % SDS for 1 hr, suggesting it was not composed of membrane debris from the mother cell. The D values of spores ranged from 1.19- 3.31 min. The addition of lysozyme in the plating medium elevated the recovery rate of heat-treated spores. The growth rate of a cocktail of spores from spices (# 31, # 32, # 45) between 4 to 5 hr after inoculation was determined with a doubling time of 6.82 min in hamburger. A cocktail of spores of plasmid-borne ent control showed an optimum growth rate between 5 to 8 hr after inoculation with doubling time of 15.98 min. However; spice isolate cocktail, plasmid-borne ent control cocktail (FD-5603 and FD-153), and a chromosome-borne ent control (NTCT 8239) were unable to germinate and outgrowth at 20oC. Inoculation in laboratory medium FTG indicated the same result as hamburger at 20oC. The ability of C. perfringens spores in spices to potentially survive cooking procedures can be followed by germination and growth of vegetative cells during improper cooling to levels associated with foodborne illness caused by this organism. Our results suggest that retail spices are potential vehicles of transmission of enterotoxin-positive C. perfringens.

First Advisor

Ronald Labbe