Pet treats, including pig ears, have been implicated as vehicles of human salmonellosis, and Salmonella has been isolated on commercially produced pig ears. Therefore, behavior of the pathogen on this very low water activity (aw) pet treat is of interest. The survival of Salmonella serotypes Newport and Typhimurium DT104 was measured on natural (aw 0.256) and smoked (aw 0.306) pig ear pet treat products inoculated at ca. 6.5 log CFU per sample and stored at 4.4 or 22°C for 365 days. Surviving populations of Salmonella were enumerated periodically, and a modified Weibull model was used to fit the inactivation curves for log populations. After 14 days, the decline of Salmonella was significantly (P < 0.05) greater at 22°C than at 4.4°C. By 365 days of storage at 4.4°C, Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 declined by 2.19 log on smoked pig ears and 1.14 log on natural pig ears, while Salmonella Newport declined by 4.20 log on smoked pig ears and 2.08 log on natural pig ears. Populations of Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 on refrigerated natural pig ears rebounded between day 152 (3.21 log CFU per sample) and day 175 (4.79 log CFU per sample) and rose gradually for the duration of the study to 5.28 log CFU per sample. The model fits for survival rate of Salmonella on pig ears at 4.4°C show a rapid initial decline followed by a long tailing effect. Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 on natural pig ears at 4.4°C had the slowest rate of reduction. At 22°C Salmonella declined nonlinearly by >4.5 log for each combination of serotype and pig ear type at 22°C but remained detectable by enrichment. The model parameter for days to first decimal reduction of Salmonella on pig ears was two to three times higher at 4.4°C compared with 22°C, demonstrating that Salmonella slowly declines on very low aw refrigerated pet treats and more rapidly at room temperature. This information may be useful for pet treat safety assessments.

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