ABSTRACT

After harvest, inshell walnuts are dried using low-temperature forced air and are then stored in bins or silos for up to 1 year. To better understand the survival of bacteria on inshell walnuts, aerobic plate counts (APCs) and Escherichia coli–coliform counts (ECCs) were evaluated during commercial storage (10 to 12°C and 63 to 65% relative humidity) over 9 months. APCs decreased by 1.4 to 2.0 log CFU per nut during the first 5 months of storage, and ECCs decreased by 1.3 to 2.2 log CFU per nut in the first month of storage. Through the remaining 4 to 8 months of storage, APCs and ECCs remained unchanged (P > 0.05) or decreased by <0.15 log CFU per nut per month. Similar trends were observed on kernels extracted from the inshell walnuts. APCs and ECCs were consistently and often significantly higher on kernels extracted from visibly broken inshell walnuts than on kernels extracted from visibly intact inshell walnuts. Parameters measured in this study were used to determine the survival of five-strain cocktails of E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella inoculated onto freshly hulled inshell walnuts (~8 log CFU/g) after simulated commercial drying (10 to 12 h; 40°C) and simulated commercial storage (12 months at 10°C and 65% relative humidity). Populations declined by 2.86, 5.01, and 4.40 log CFU per nut for E. coli O157:H7, L. monocytogenes, and Salmonella, respectively, after drying and during the first 8 days of storage. Salmonella populations changed at a rate of −0.33 log CFU per nut per month between days 8 and 360, to final levels of 2.83 ± 0.79 log CFU per nut. E. coli and L. monocytogenes populations changed by −0.17 log CFU per nut per month and −0.26 log CFU per nut per month between days 8 and 360, respectively. For some samples, E. coli or L. monocytogenes populations were below the limit of detection by plating (0.60 log CFU per nut) by day 183 or 148, respectively; at least one of the six samples was positive at each subsequent sampling time by either plating or by enrichment.

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