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Thermal Inactivation of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in Peanut Butter–Filled Pretzels and Whole Wheat Pita Chips

Kottapalli, Balasubrahmanyam, Nguyen, Stephanie P. V., Perez, Tim, Cunningham, Ashley
Journal of food protection 2019 v.82 no.2 pp. 238-246
Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, baking, detection limit, dough, food industry, food pathogens, heat inactivation, low moisture foods, peanut butter, peanuts, plate count, public health, temperature, water activity, wheat
Recent recalls and outbreaks due to foodborne pathogens in thermally processed low-moisture foods highlight the need for the food industry to validate their thermal process. The purpose of this study was to validate baking as an adequate lethality step in controlling Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes during the production of peanut butter (PB)–filled pretzels and whole wheat (WW) pita chips. Two dough types, PB-filled pretzel and WW pita chip with varying water activities (0.96 to 0.98), were inoculated (target level, ∼10(8) to 10(9) CFU/g) with a multistrain cocktail of Salmonella and L. monocytogenes in separate trials and were baked at 300°F (148.9°C) and 350°F (176.6°C) for 0, 5, 10, 17, 25, and 30 min. Following baking, samples were rapidly cooled and analyzed for Salmonella and L. monocytogenes by the pour plate method. Uninoculated samples were analyzed for total viable aerobic plate count (APC) and Enterobacteriaceae counts. Water activity analysis was also performed. The experiment was replicated three times. Nonlinear regression was used to estimate the baking times required to achieve a minimum of 4- and 5-log reduction in APC, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes. A 4- and 5-log reduction in APC was predicted following a treatment at 350°F for 3.3 and 5.6 min in WW pita chip product, respectively. Following a treatment of 350°F for 10 and 25 min, Enterobacteriaceae and APC counts were below the detection limit (<1 log CFU/g), respectively, in all of the PB-filled pretzel samples. Salmonella and L. monocytogenes counts decreased with increasing baking time regardless of the temperature used. Significant reductions (≥5-log reduction) were estimated in Salmonella and L. monocytogenes in product baked at 350°F for 15.5 and 17.5 min in WW pita chip dough and PB-filled pretzel dough, respectively. Both pathogens were below the detection limit (<1 log CFU/g) in PB-filled pretzel and WW pita chip products under baking conditions of 350°F for 25 and 30 min, respectively. This study demonstrates that PB-filled pretzel and WW pita chip products, when baked to saleable quality, will not present a public health risk from the standpoint of Salmonella or L. monocytogenes.