Intervention technologies for inactivating Salmonella on whole chia seeds are currently limited. Determination of the thermal inactivation kinetics of Salmonella on chia seeds and selection of an appropriate nonpathogenic surrogate will provide a foundation for selecting and optimizing thermal pasteurization processes for chia seeds. In this study, chia seed samples from three separate production lots were inoculated with a five-strain Salmonella cocktail or Enterococcus faecium NRRL-B2354 and equilibrated to a water activity of 0.53 at room temperature (25°C). After equilibration for at least 3 days, the inoculated seeds were subjected to isothermal treatments at 80, 85, or 90°C. Samples were removed at six time points, and surviving bacteria were enumerated. Whole chia seeds were diluted in a filter bag at 1:30 because bacterial recovery with this method was similar to that obtained from ground seeds. Survivor data were fitted to consolidated models: one primary model (log linear or Weibull) and one secondary model (Bigelow). E. faecium had higher thermal resistance than did Salmonella, suggesting that E. faecium may be a suitable conservative nonpathogenic surrogate for Salmonella. The Weibull model was a better fit for the survivor data than was the log-linear model for both bacteria based on the lower root mean square error and corrected Akaike's information criterion values. Lipid oxidation measurements and fatty acid concentrations were significantly different from those of the control samples, but the overall magnitude of the differences was relatively small. The thermal inactivation kinetics of Salmonella and E. faecium on chia seeds may be used as a basis for developing thermal pasteurization processes for chia seeds.

  • Thermal inactivation of Salmonella and E. faecium was evaluated on chia seeds.

  • Special care is needed when diluting chia seeds for microbial enumeration.

  • E. faecium is a conservative thermal surrogate for Salmonella on chia seeds.

  • The Weibull model was a better fit for survivor data than the log-linear model.

  • Lipid oxidation after thermal treatment was minimal.

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