ABSTRACT

Survival and growth of Salmonella and Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) were investigated in kombucha prepared from four brands of commercially available kombucha kits intended for use by home brewers. Changes in populations of the indigenous microbiota responsible for fermentation of kombucha were also determined. An initial population of Salmonella (6.77 log CFU/mL) decreased to below the detection limit (0.30 log CFU/mL) within 10 days in kombucha prepared from two of the test brands. Populations of 1.85 and 1.20 log CFU/mL were detected in two brands fermented for 14 days. An initial STEC population of 7.02 log CFU/mL decreased to <0.30 log CFU/mL in two brands within 14 days; 0.77 and 0.87 log CFU/mL were detected in kombucha prepared from the other two brands. Salmonella and STEC increased within 1 day in three brands of base tea used to prepare kombucha and were stable throughout 14 days of incubation. Both pathogens steadily declined in base tea prepared from one brand of kombucha kit. Inactivation of the pathogens occurred as the pH of the kombucha decreased, but a clear correlation between rates of inactivation among different brands of kits and decrease in pH was not evident. Growth and peak populations of mesophilic aerobic microorganisms, yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, and acetic acid bacteria varied depending on the kombucha kit brand. No strong evidence was found of a correlation between the behavior of Salmonella or STEC and that of any of these groups of indigenous microbiota. Results of this study show that survival of Salmonella and STEC in kombucha and base tea used to prepare kombucha is dependent on inherent differences in commercially available kombucha kits intended for use in home settings. Strict application of hygienic practices is essential for preventing contamination with Salmonella or STEC and reducing the risk of illness associated the consumption of kombucha.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Salmonella and STEC survive in kombucha prepared from some brands of home-brew kits.

  • Death of Salmonella and STEC in kombucha is correlated with a decrease in pH.

  • Death of Salmonella and STEC in kombucha is not correlated with indigenous microbiota.

  • Survival of Salmonella and STEC in base tea depends on the type of leaf tea used.

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