Outbreaks and recalls associated with microbial contamination of powdered foods have raised concern for the safety of the spray-drying process and its products. However, little research on the fate of bacteria during the spray-drying process has been done, leaving much unknown about the risks of contamination in spray dryers. Therefore, quantifying the contamination levels of Salmonella and Enterococcus faecium (as a surrogate) in various locations within a pilot-scale spray dryer can help illustrate the distribution of bacterial contamination, including in the final product. A 10% (w/w) dispersion of water and soy protein isolate was mixed with tryptic soy broth containing yeast extract inoculated with Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis phage type 30 (PT30) or E. faecium strain NRRL B-2354. This dispersion was spray dried using a pilot-scale tall-form cocurrent spray dryer at an inlet air temperature of 180, 200, or 220°C. After drying, samples of powder from eight locations within the system were collected or surface swabbed, plated, and enumerated. Spray drying achieved 2.40 to 4.15 and 2.33 to 2.83 log reductions in the concentrations of Salmonella and E. faecium, respectively, in the final powder product accumulated in the dryer's collectors. Salmonella and E. faecium were found in various concentrations in all locations within the spray dryer after a complete drying cycle. Differences in inlet air temperature between 180 and 220°C had no significant effect on the inactivation levels. As a surrogate, E. faecium was more resistant to spray drying than Salmonella. Overall, spray drying is capable of significant bacterial reduction in the final powder product, which can be combined with other hurdle technologies. However, adequate cleaning and sanitization procedures must be taken into consideration to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Spray drying reduced Salmonella Enteritidis PT30 and E. faecium in soy protein by >99%.

  • Salmonella Enteritidis PT30 and E. faecium were pervasive within the spray dryer.

  • More E. faecium than Salmonella Enteritidis PT30 survived in spray drying of soy protein.

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