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Survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Synthetic Gastric Fluid after Cold and Acid Habituation in Apple Juice or Trypticase Soy Broth Acidified with Hydrochloric Acid or Organic Acids

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Extreme acid tolerance of Escherichia coli O157:H7 has raised doubts about the safety of acidic foods. This study examined whether prior storage in acidic and/or cold conditions enhanced survival of E. coli O157:H7 in synthetic gastric fluid (SGF). Three E. coli O157:H7 strains were stored in trypticase soy broth (TSB; acidified with HCl, malic acid, citric acid, or lactic acid) or pH 3.5 and 6.5 (nonacidic control) apple juice at 4 and 21°C for ≤7 days and then were incubated in pH 2.5 SGF at 37°C for 4 h. Cells survived better in apple juice than in TSB containing organic acids, suggesting that juice constituents other than organic acids protect E. coli O157:H7. Refrigeration combined with low pH best protected cells in apple juice and acidified TSB, but, compared to the nonacidic control, only acidified TSB enhanced subsequent survival in pH 2.5 SGF. Equal survival in SGF occurred after storage in pH 3.5 or 6.5 apple juice at 4°C, suggesting that low temperature alone in apple juice enhanced acid tolerance. Two strains stored at 4°C in TSB containing malic or citric acid subsequently survived better in SGF than cells stored in nonacidified TSB but poorer than cells stored in the presence of HCl. These differences reflect the higher pKa of these organic acids. However, subsequent survival of these strains in SGF was poorer after refrigerated storage in apple juice than in TSB containing citric or malic acids. Cells stored in lactic acid were most likely to be completely eliminated upon transfer to SGF. Differences in survival in storage media or SGF related to strain, storage conditions, or acidifier were consistent and often statistically significant (P < 0.05). Although the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in refrigerated acidic beverages may not be affected by the type of acidifier used, the subsequent survival in SGF of this pathogen may be critically dependent on this factor.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1605 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

Publication date: 1998-08-01

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