Developing Validated Time-Temperature Thermal Processing Guidelines for Ready-To-Eat Deli Meat and Poultry Products

Jeffrey Sindelar; Kathleen Glass; Robert Hanson
University of Wisconsin; HansonTech


  • To validate the effect of thermal processing interventions on the survival of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in roast beef, turkey deli-breast, and boneless hams;
  • To use the thermal destruction data to develop scientifically-validated, easy-to-use time-temperature tables as tools for assuring regulatory compliance and pathogen destruction for ready-to-eat roast beef, turkey deli-breast, and boneless hams and;
  • To develop the basis for a series of time-temperature tables organized in product categories that will cover the vast array of ready-to-eat meat products and thermal processes in the U.S. meat industry


Thermal treatments are critical for controlling foodborne pathogens in ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products. Microbial resistance to thermal processes can be affected by several factors including the level and length of heat exposure and various intrinsic factors such as fat, salt or water concentration. To ensure that cooking protocols are effective in reducing pathogenic bacteria to safe levels, it is important that scientific support for the validation of thermal processes spans products in which it is used for; addresses the pathogens most commonly associated with certain products or animal species; and includes recently identified pathogenic bacteria of concern. This study investigated the validity of thermal processes for three different high moisture ready-to-eat processed deli-style products (ham, roast beef, and turkey breast). Results from this study confirmed that cooking temperatures and times that are currently being widely used in the meat and poultry industry following USDA, FSIS guidance supporting documentation for thermal lethality are sufficient to kill Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) in roast beef, turkey deli-breast, and boneless hams in all the products tested when cooking temperatures met or exceeded 62.8°C. The pathogen reduction levels all met or exceeded regulatory requirements or recommendations for the products tested. However, when cooking roast beef to 54.4°C, current USDA, FSIS thermal processing guidance for Salmonella was not supported—suggesting that additional cooking time or higher cooking temperatures are needed to achieve a target pathogen reduction. Further, the integrated lethality of the products investigated was successfully determined by incorporating pathogen reduction results with thermal process profiles to create the integrated thermal lethality profiles.


Because of the wide variety of processed meat products, thermal process validations that encompass this wide range of products are important to confirm appropriate and expected pathogen destruction during cooking. The results of this study have enabled the development and generation of new easy-to-use time-temperature tables for boneless ham, roast beef, and deli-style turkey breast for validated reduction of the pathogens investigated.