This study aimed to identify a suitable nonpathogenic surrogate for industrial validation of irradiation process by high-energy electron beam (5 MeV) of dried seeds. Pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca) and golden flax seeds (Linum usitatissimum) were contaminated with a five-strain Salmonella cocktail comprising five serovars or a two-strain Escherichia coli cocktail comprising pathogenic strains, including E. coli O157:H7. Comparison of log survival fractions of the E. coli and Salmonella cocktails revealed that on both types of seeds, the Salmonella cocktail exhibited higher tolerance against high-energy electron beam at doses of 4 kGy than the E. coli cocktail, with a log survival fraction of −4.1 ± 0.7 compared with −6.0 ± 0.2 on pumpkin seeds and −4.7 ± 0.7 compared with reduction from 1.8 × 108 CFU/g to below the limit of detection (1 × 102 CFU/g) on flax seeds. For surrogate selection, the Salmonella cocktail and the strains E. coli DSM 18039 (strain MG1655) and Enterococcus faecium NCCB 86023 (strain NRRL B-2354) were subjected to electron beam processing at doses of 2 to 6 kGy. The calculated D10-values of the Salmonella cocktail were not significantly different (P > 0.05) from those of E. coli DSM 18039, i.e., 1.07 ± 0.10 kGy compared with 1.20 ± 0.07 kGy on pumpkin seeds and 0.88 ± 0.04 kGy compared with 1.07 ± 0.03 kGy on flax seeds. E. faecium NCCB 86023 exhibited significantly higher tolerance on pumpkin seeds (3.07 ± 0.18 kGy) and on flax seeds (2.22 ± 0.29 kGy), ∼3 log and 2 log higher than the Salmonella cocktail, respectively. Hence, the nonpathogenic E. coli DSM 18039 is suggested to serve as a surrogate for Salmonella in industrial validation trials. Because on both types of seeds E. faecium NCCB 86023 showed significantly higher tolerance against electron beam than the Salmonella cocktail, this nonpathogenic strain could serve as a process control indicator for the decontamination of dried seeds by electron beam.
D10-values of Salmonella were determined on pumpkin and flax seeds.
D10-values of E. coli DSM 18039 (MG1655) revealed this strain as a suitable surrogate.
E. faecium NCCB 86023 (NRRL B-2354) is a suitable process control indicator.