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Microbiological and Sensory Quality of Fresh Ready-to-Eat Artichoke Hearts Packaged under Modified Atmosphere

Garcia-Martinez, Nuria, Andreo-Martinez, Pedro, Almela, Luis, Guardiola, Lucia, Gabaldon, Jose A.
Journal of food protection 2017 v.80 no.5 pp. 740-749
Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, artichokes, buds, microbial growth, microorganisms, pH, plate count, ready-to-eat foods, sales, sensory properties, shelf life, storage temperature
In recent years the sales of minimally processed vegetables have grown exponentially as a result of changes in consumer habits. The availability of artichoke buds as a ready-to-eat product would be, therefore, highly advantageous. However, minimally processed artichoke hearts are difficult to preserve because of their rapid browning and the proliferation of naturally occurring microorganisms. We developed artichoke hearts prepared as ready-to-eat products that maintain the characteristics of the fresh product. The microbiological stability, sensory qualities, and shelf life of the processed artichoke hearts were determined. During the shelf life, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli counts were below the limits legally established by European regulations for minimally processed vegetables. The pH played an important role in microbial growth. Artichoke hearts had lower microbial counts in experiments conducted at pH 4.1 than in experiments conducted at pH 4.4, although the recommended threshold value for total plate count (7 log CFU/g) was not exceeded in either case. Sensory parameters were affected by the microorganisms, and artichoke products at lower pH had better sensory qualities. Vacuum impregnation techniques, modified atmosphere packaging, and low storage temperature were very effective for increasing the shelf life of minimally processed artichokes. The average shelf life was approximately 12 to 15 days.