Outbreaks of listeriosis are continually attributed to the consumption of Hispanic-style soft cheeses contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes postpasteurization. Once contaminated, L. monocytogenes can grow rapidly in cheeses like Queso Fresco (QF) even when stored at refrigeration temperatures. Several antimicrobials, including acidified calcium sulfate with lactic acid (ACSL), ɛ-polylysine (EPL), hydrogen peroxide (HP), lauric arginate ethyl ester (LAE), and sodium caprylate (SC), have demonstrated antilisterial activity in food. The objectives of this study were to determine the efficacy of these antimicrobials used individually and in combination to control L. monocytogenes as surface contaminants on QF and to identify additive and synergistic interactions. Cheeses were surface inoculated at ∼4 log CFU/g, dipped in antimicrobial solutions, vacuum packaged, and then stored at 7°C for 35 days. L. monocytogenes counts were determined 24 h after application of the antimicrobials and then weekly throughout storage. Dip treatments in a 5% (v/v) HP solution reduced L. monocytogenes counts to <0.5 log CFU/g within 24 h with no increase in counts through day 35. Dip treatments in LAE at 2 and 5% alone and in combination with EPL at 10% produced initial reductions in pathogen counts (1.5 to 1.8 CFU/g) but did not inhibit pathogen growth compared with the sterile water control. Dip applications of ACSL at 25% also produced an initial ∼1.5-log reduction in L. monocytogenes counts followed by regrowth. Application of SC at 10% alone and in combination with either EPL or LAE inhibited growth to <1 log CFU/g through 21 days of storage. The combination of ACSL+SC worked synergistically to inhibit the growth of L. monocytogenes on QF to <1 log CFU/g through 35 days. These data indicate that HP alone and treatments containing EPL, LAE, or ACSL in combination with SC are promising postlethality treatments and process controls for L. monocytogenes on QF through a 21-day shelf life.

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