ABSTRACT

One intrinsic characteristic of low-moisture foods that is frequently overlooked is pH. Although pH affects the survival of microorganisms in high-moisture foods, its influence in low-moisture foods with less available moisture has not been examined. Escherichia coli O157:H7, E. coli O121, Salmonella enterica Anatum, and S. enterica Agona were grown on solid media with and without added glucose, harvested, and then suspended in buffer at pH 4, 5, and 7 for 10 min. All cultures were spotted individually onto cellulose filters and dried in a biohazard cabinet (23 ± 2°C) overnight (24 ± 2 h) and then stored in a 25°C incubator at 33% relative humidity. Populations were examined at regular intervals up to 26 (E. coli) or 29 (Salmonella) days. Additional controls for pH consisted of cultures held in buffer at pH 4, 5, and 7 at 25°C for the same time periods as the desiccated cells. For all strains tested, pH had an effect on survival whether stored dried or in liquid buffer (P < 0.05). However, when grown on solid media, acid adaptation (grown with glucose) before acid treatment did not appear beneficial to Salmonella during desiccation. Instead, both acid-adapted Salmonella serovars appeared less resistant during drying than did non–acid-adapted cells. Once dried, the rates of decline for Salmonella were not significantly different for acid-adapted and nonadapted cells (P > 0.05), indicating similar persistence following desiccation. A reverse trend was observed for E. coli O121; acid adaptation on solid media improved survival during desiccation and subsequent storage at low pH (P < 0.05). E. coli O157:H7 survival was significantly lower than that of either Salmonella or E. coli O121 under all conditions tested. Results indicate that the response to desiccation and pH stress differs between the microorganisms and under different growth conditions.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • E. coli O157:H7 was significantly less resistant to desiccation than was E. coli O121.

  • Both Salmonella serotypes were more desiccation resistant than both E. coli strains.

  • The pH during drying affected survival during desiccation and storage.

  • Acid adaptation before desiccation improved the survival of E. coli O121.

  • Acid adaptation before desiccation did not improve the survival of Salmonella.

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