Although high-temperature heat treatments can efficiently reduce pathogen levels, they also affect the quality and nutritional profile of foods and increase the cost of processing. The food additive butyl para-hydroxybenzoate (BPB) was investigated for its potential to synergistically enhance thermal microbial inactivation at mild heating temperatures (54 to 58°C). Four foodborne pathogenic bacteria, Cronobacter sakazakii, Salmonella enterica Typhimurium, attenuated Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes, were cultured to early stationary phase and then subjected to mild heating at 58, 55, 57, and 54°C, respectively, in a model food matrix (brain heart infusion [BHI]) containing low concentrations of BPB (≤125 ppm). The temperature used with each bacterium was selected based on the temperature that would yield an approximately 1- to 3-log reduction over 15 min of heating in BHI without BPB in a submerged coil system. The inclusion of BPB at ≤125 ppm resulted in significant enhancement of thermal inactivation, achieving 5- to >6-log reductions of the gram-negative strains with D-values of <100 s. A 3- to 4-log reduction of L. monocytogenes was achieved with a similar treatment. No significant microbial inactivation was noted in the absence of mild heating for the same time period. This study provides additional proof of concept that low-temperature inactivation of foodborne pathogens can be realized by synergistic enhancement of thermal inactivation by additives that affect microbial cell membranes.
BPB significantly enhanced inactivation of four foodborne bacteria at mild temperatures.
The combination of mild heating and BPB had a synergistic effect on foodborne pathogens.
Enhancement of thermal inactivation was greater in the gram-negative bacteria.