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Determination of 5-Log Pathogen Reduction Times for Heat-Processed, Acidified Vegetable Brines

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Recent outbreaks of acid-resistant food pathogens in acid foods, including apple cider and orange juice, have raised concerns about the safety of acidified vegetable products. We determined pasteurization times and temperatures needed to assure a 5-log reduction in the numbers of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella strains in acidified cucumber pickle brines. Cocktails of five strains of each pathogen were (separately) used for heat-inactivation studies between 50 and 60°C in brines that had an equilibrated pH value of 4.1. Salmonella strains were found to be less heat resistant than E. coli O157:H7 or L. monocytogenes strains. The nonlinear killing curves generated during these studies were modeled using a Weibull function. We found no significant difference in the heat-killing data for E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes (P = 0.9709). The predicted 5-log reduction times for E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes were found to fit an exponential decay function. These data were used to estimate minimum pasteurization times and temperatures needed to ensure safe processing of acidified pickle products and show that current industry pasteurization practices offer a significant margin of safety.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, Department of Food Science 2: Department of Statistics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-7624, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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