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Microbiological Safety of Mayonnaise, Salad Dressings, and Sauces Produced in the United States: A Review

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The literature on the death and survival of foodborne pathogens in commercial mayonnaise, dressing, and sauces was reviewed and statistically analyzed with emphasis on Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes. The absence of reports of foodborne illness associated directly with the consumption of commercially prepared acidic dressings and sauces is evidence of their safety. Salmonella, E. coli O157: H7, E. coli, L. monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Yersinia enterocolitica die when inoculated into mayonnaise and dressings. Historically, mayonnaise and dressings have been exempt from the acidified food regulations and have justly deserved this status due primarily to the toxic effect of acetic and to a lesser extent lactic and citric acids. These organic acids are inimical to pathogenic bacteria and are effective natural preservatives with acetic being the most effective in killing pathogenic bacteria at the pH values encountered in these products. Statistical analysis on data reported in the literature shows that the most important and significant factor in destroying pathogenic bacteria is pH as adjusted with acetic acid followed by the concentration of acetic acid in the water phase. The reported highest manufacturing target pH for dressings and sauces is 4.4, which is below the 4.75 pKa of acetic acid and below the reported inhibitory pH of 4.5 for foodborne pathogens in the presence of acetic acid. The overall conclusion is that these products are very safe. They should remain exempt from the acidified food regulations providing adequate research has been done to validate their safety, and the predominant acid is acetic and reasonable manufacturing precautions are taken.

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Silliker Laboratories Group, Inc., 900 Maple Avenue, Homewood, Illinois 60430, USA

Publication date: 2000-08-01

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