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Microbial inactivation of E. coli cells by a combined PEF–HPCD treatment in a continuous flow system

Pataro, Gianpiero, De Lisi, Mariano, Donsì, Giorgio, Ferrari, Giovanna
Innovative food science & emerging technologies 2014 v.22 pp. 102-109
Escherichia coli, ambient temperature, bacteria, carbon dioxide, energy, food industry, foods, pulsed electric fields, synergism
A laboratory scale continuous flow unit was set up and used to study the effect of pulsed electric fields (PEF) pre-treatments on microbial inactivation by high pressure carbon dioxide (HPCD) processing with the aim of investigating the synergistic effect of the combined treatment. McIlvaine buffer solution inoculated with Escherichia coli cells ATCC26 was pre-treated with PEF (25°C) at different field strength (E=6–12kV/cm) and energy input (WT=10–40J/mL) and then processed with HPCD (25°C) at pressures of 8.0, 14.0 and 20.0MPa and holding times of 4, 7 and 11min.Results showed that treating the microbial suspension only with PEF, the inactivation level slightly increased with increasing the field strength and energy input with no significant effect of the pressure applied. The maximum inactivation level obtained was 2.25 Log-cycles at 12kV/cm and 40J/mL. When the bacterial cells were treated only with HPCD, the inactivation level was almost independent on the pressure of CO2, and gradually increased with increasing the holding time up to a maximum value of 2.41 Log-cycles. The combination of PEF and HPCD treatment resulted in a marked increase of the microbial inactivation with increasing the field strength, energy input, holding time and operative pressure. A clear synergistic effect was evident when holding time was longer than 4min, regardless the intensity of the PEF treatment applied.Consumers demand for fresh and natural products forces food manufacturers to investigate milder preservation processes and stimulate the current trend to use hurdle technologies. Pulsed electric field (PEF) and high pressure carbon dioxide (HPCD) are emerging non-thermal technologies which have antimicrobial capabilities when applied alone or in combination with other physicochemical hurdles. The present work demonstrated, for the first time, the feasibility of combined PEF-HCPD process based on the coupling of a PEF pretreatment stage to HPCD treatment in a continuous flow unit. The results support the view that the combined process is able to induce substantial microbial inactivation at mild treatment conditions and at room temperature suggesting the idea that this process could be applied to foods with thermosensitive components.