High-moisture slurries used in the production of table spreads may permit growth of Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus and subsequent production of heat-stable enterotoxins. Compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), specifically 21 CFR Part 117, subpart B and section 117.80 (c)(2) and (c)(3), requires a hazard analysis to determine whether preventive controls are needed. This study estimates the risk of potential growth of S. aureus and B. cereus in eight different dairy- and non-dairy–based slurries during extended storage and use. Mathematical models were used to screen which slurries might support the growth of S. aureus and B. cereus. Samples were individually inoculated with multiple strains of S. aureus and B. cereus to achieve a target level of 102 to 103 CFU/g. Inoculated and uninoculated slurry samples were incubated at typical holding temperatures of 35°C (95°F), 46.1°C (115°F), and 54.4°C (130°F). Samples were removed and tested following inoculation (time zero), after 4 and 12 h, and after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 10 days of incubation at the target temperatures. All experiments were repeated in triplicate. Samples were analyzed for S. aureus and B. cereus using Baird-Parker agar and mannitol yolk polymyxin agar, respectively. Neither S. aureus nor B. cereus exceeded (P < 0.05) proposed food safety limits (105 CFU/g) at the evaluated experimental conditions. The study highlights the role of multiple hurdles (e.g., pH, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, salt, and other ingredients) in assuring microbiological safety of in-process dairy- and non-dairy–based slurries used in the production of table spreads. This study also found that mathematical models representative of product composition, intrinsic parameters, and experimental conditions can help risk managers make informed decisions during product development. Finally, the study findings indicate no significant risk of growth of the target pathogens associated with the dairy- and non-dairy–based aqueous slurries used in the routine manufacturing of table spreads.

  • Mathematical models were a useful screening tool to prioritize research needs.

  • Pathogen growth in aqueous slurries was controlled by appropriate formulation.

  • Aqueous phase slurries are preserved by multiple hurdles (pH, preservatives, salt).

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