Clostridium perfringens

Clostridium perfringens

Compiled By: Julie A. Albrecht, Ph.D., Associate Professor

The Organism: Clostridium perfringens are anaerobic bacteria that can produce spores. The bacteria can exist as a vegetative cell or in the dormant spore form in food. Thorough cooking (140°F) will kill the vegetative cells, but spores may survive. At temperatures between 70°F and 120°F, the spores can germinate into vegetative cells and produce a toxin. Germination of the spores and outgrowth into vegetative cells occurs in food inadequately refrigerated. Toxin production normally occurs in the intestinal tract.

PDF Fact Sheet

Sources of the organism:

  • Intestinal tracts of animals and humans
  • Soil
  • Sewage
  • Any raw food may contain the spore or bacteria

Associated foods:

  • Cooked meat and poultry products
  • Roast beef
  • Gravy

Microorganism Characteristics: Gram positive spore forming anaerobic rod shaped bacteria that can produce an enterotoxin which is released in the intestine.

Growth conditions:

  • Temperature range: 15-55°C (59-131°F)
  • Optimum Temperature: 43-47°C (109-117°F)
  • pH range: 5-9
  • Lowest reported Aw for growth: 0.96
  • Salt Tolerance: 5%

The Disease: Perfringens food poisoning causes gastroenteritis from consuming the vegetative cells. A toxin can be produced by the bacteria in the intestinal tract which can also cause a food borne illness.

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea

Onset time:

  • 8-24 hours

Infective Dose:

  • Large numbers (>108 cells) of Clostridium perfringens need to be consumed for symptoms of the illness to develop.

Duration of symptoms:

  • 24-48 hours


  • Properly cook meat and poultry products.
  • Reheat foods to 165°F for 15 seconds.
  • Refrigerate foods at 41°F or below. Foods must reach 41°F within 4 hours.
  • Proper cooling techniques are necessary to prevent spore germination.