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Effects of Acetic Acid and Arginine on pH Elevation and Growth of Bacillus licheniformis in an Acidified Cucumber Juice Medium

Zhenquan Yang, Xia Meng, Frederick Breidt, Lisa L. Dean, Fletcher M. Arritt
Journal of food protection 2015 v.78 no.4 pp. 728-737
Bacillus licheniformis, acetic acid, acidity, amino sugars, ammonia, anaerobic conditions, arginine, arginine deiminase, bacteria, broths, cell growth, citric acid, cucumbers, culture media, fermentation, food safety, growth retardation, juices, microbial growth, pH, risk, tomato products
Bacillus licheniformis has been shown to cause pH elevation in tomato products having an initial pH below 4.6 and metabiotic effects that can lead to the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Because of this, the organism poses a potential risk to acidified vegetable products; however, little is known about the growth and metabolism of this organism in these products. To clarify the mechanisms of pH change and growth of B. licheniformis in vegetable broth under acidic conditions, a cucumber juice medium representative of a noninhibitory vegetable broth was used to monitor changes in pH, cell growth, and catabolism of sugars and amino acids. For initial pH values between pH 4.1 to 6.0, pH changes resulted from both fermentation of sugar (lowering pH) and ammonia production (raising pH). An initial pH elevation occurred, with starting pH values of pH 4.1 to 4.9 under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, and was apparently mediated by the arginine deiminase reaction of B. licheniformis. This initial pH elevation was prevented if 5 mM or greater acetic acid was present in the brine at the same pH. In laboratory media, under favorable conditions for growth, data indicated that growth of the organism was inhibited at pH 4.6 with protonated acetic acid concentrations of 10 to 20 mM, corresponding to 25 to 50 mM total acetic acid; however, growth inhibition required greater than 300 mM citric acid (10-fold excess of the amount in processed tomato products) products under similar conditions. The data indicate that growth and pH increase by B. licheniformis may be inhibited by the acetic acid present in most commercial acidified vegetable products but not by the citric acid in many tomato products.