The objectives of this study were to determine the death rates of Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes in three commercially manufactured full-fat ranch salad dressings, three reduced-fat ranch salad dressings, two full-fat blue cheese salad dressings, and two reduced-fat blue cheese salad dressings and to affirm the expectation that these dressings do not support the growth of these pathogens. The respective initial pH values of the four types of shelf-stable, dairy-based, pourable dressings were 2.87 to 3.72, 2.82 to 3.19, 3.08 to 3.87, and 2.83 to 3.49, respectively. Dressings were inoculated with low (2.4 to 2.5 log CFU/g) and high (5.3 to 5.9 log CFU/g) populations of separate five-strain mixtures of each pathogen and stored at 25°C for up to 15 days. Regardless of the initial inoculum population, all test pathogens rapidly died in all salad dressings. Salmonella was undetectable by enrichment (<1 CFU/25-ml sample in three replicate trials) in all salad dressings within 1 day, and E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes were reduced to undetectable levels by enrichment between 1 and 8 days and 2 and 8 days, respectively. E. coli O157:H7 was not detected in 4 of the 10 salad dressings stored for 2 or more days and 9 of the 10 dressings stored for 6 or more days after inoculation. L. monocytogenes was detected in 9 of the 10 salad dressings stored for 3 days but in only one dressing, by enrichment, at 6 days, indicating that it had the highest tolerance among the three pathogens to the acidic environment imposed by the dressings. Overall, the type of dressing (i.e., ranch versus blue cheese) and level of fat in the dressings did not have a marked effect on the rate of inactivation of pathogens. Total counts and populations of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts and molds remained low or undetectable (<1.0 log CFU/ml) throughout the 15-day storage period. Based on these observations, shelf-stable, dairy-based, pourable ranch and blue cheese salad dressings manufactured by three companies and stored at 25°C do not support the growth of Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and L. monocytogenes and should not be considered as potentially hazardous foods (time-temperature control for safety foods) as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code.
† Present address: Division of Life Science, College of Life Sciences, Korea University, Anam-Dong, Seongbuk-Gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea.