Sour Odor

Meat Preserving And Curing Guide

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Sour odors may be detected in several different types of food. In some foods, a sour odor may be normal and desirable, as in sour cream, buttermilk, and other products. However, in many products, a sour odor is undesirable. This condition may be described as an uncontrolled reaction which results in the formation of an abnormal sour odor and flavor. Any food with a high moisture content is susceptible to the development of a sour odor and flavor. Examples of products where a sour odor and flavor is undesirable are large cuts of meats, sausages, dairy products, and many types of canned products.

a. As Indicator of an Unwholesome Product. The abnormal characteristics exhibited by a product that has undergone sour-odor development include the formation of sour odor and sour flavor. The odor of the product is not normally affected until the sour odor condition has progressed to an unwholesome phase. Texture may not be affected until latter stages of the deterioration of the product.

b. Cause of Sour Odors and Flavors. Sour odors and flavors are produced by the growth of bacteria in a microaerophilic environment. The bacteria involved are relatively thermal-tolerant lactic acid bacteria, usually lactobacilli.

(1) The bacteria ferment the sugars in the food, which are used as a food source. As the bacteria grow in the food item, they produce as a by-product of their metabolic activities various organic acids, such as formic, acetic, and butyric.

(2) These organic acids are deposited in the food items, where they cause a lowering of the pH of the product. As the pH is lowered, the product develops a sour odor because of the shift toward the acid side of the pH scale.

c. A Result of Underprocessing. Cured meats sometimes develop sour odors and flavor several days after processing. This is invariably the result of underprocessing, followed by growth of the surviving microorganisms. The microorganisms involved are relatively thermal-tolerant lactic acid bacteria, usually lactobacilli. These bacteria ferment the sugars in the cured meats with a consequent lowering of the pH of the product. This type of spoilage is more common in the larger sausages, as well as in hams, and can be controlled by the same procedures recommended for the prevention of green cores in sausages.

d. Summary. Sour odor may be summarized by the following diagram.

Food

+ BACTERIA

—► Organic Acids —► Sour Odor

+ High Temperature

+ Time

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