Staphylococcus aureus is a common pathogen that causes foodborne illness. Traditional methods for controlling S. aureus do not address postprocess contamination. Low-dose gamma irradiation is effective in reducing pathogens in a variety of foods and may be effective in reducing S. aureus in ready-to-eat foods. The effects of gamma irradiation on product packaging should also be considered. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of gamma irradiation on product packaging and on S. aureus in ready-to-eat ham and cheese sandwiches. The effects of refrigerated storage on irradiated and nonirradiated sandwiches were also investigated. Ham and cheese sandwiches were inoculated with 106 or 107 CFU of S. aureus per g, frozen, irradiated, and analyzed by a standard plate count method. D10-values, the amount of irradiation needed to elicit a 1-log10 reduction of bacteria, were calculated. In addition, irradiated sandwiches were analyzed after 1, 13, 27, and 39 days of storage at 4°C. The integrity of postirradiated packaging material was analyzed using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Two experiments yielded D10-values of 0.62 and 0.63. During refrigerated storage, sandwiches irradiated with 5.9 kGy showed no S. aureus growth at any time; sandwiches irradiated with 3.85 kGy showed a 6.18-log reduction in S. aureus after 13 days; and nonirradiated sandwiches showed a 0.53-log increase in S. aureus after 39 days. FTIR spectroscopy showed that the label side and the bulge side were composed of polyethylene terephthalate and nylon 6, respectively. No significant change in the packaging due to irradiation was detected. In this study, low-dose gamma irradiation was shown to be an effective method for reducing S. aureus in ready-to-eat ham and cheese sandwiches and proved to be more efficacious than refrigeration alone. Additionally, package integrity was not adversely affected by gamma irradiation.

This content is only available as a PDF.