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High pressure can reduce Salmonella in hot peppers.

In 2008, the United States experienced one of the largest multi-state salmonellosis outbreaks linked to the consumption of jalapeno and serrano peppers that had been tainted with Salmonella enterica serovar Saintpaul.

Now scientists at the University of Delaware indicate that high hydrostatic pressure (HHP) can kill the Salmonella in jalapeno and serrano peppers. Moreover, HHP can decontaminate fresh chile peppers destined for direct consumption and minimally process condiments possibly contaminated with raw peppers to enhance their microbiological safety.

The investigators inoculated peppers with high doses of Salmonella and then subjected them to varying levels of pressure for 2 minutes at 20 C. Before being treated, the peppers were either dry, briefly dipped in water, or soaked in water for 30 minutes. Overall, pressure treatment at 400 to 450 megapascals (MPa) in the soaked condition or 450 to 500 MPa in the briefly wetted condition rendered Salmonella undetectable. The investigators also found that high pressure could be used to reduce Salmonella in salsa and guacamole made with Salmonellacontaminated raw peppers.

Regarding the specifics of the investigation, jalapeno and Serrano peppers were inoculated with a five-strain cocktail of Salmonella to a final level of about 6 log CFU per gram. The samples were subsequently pressure-treated in an unwetted, wetted (briefly dipped in water) or soaked (immersed in water for 30 minutes) state at 300 to 500 MPa for 2 minutes at 20 C.

The extent of pressure inactivation increased as a function of the pressure level, achieving population reductions ranging from 1.1 to 6.6 log CFU per gram. A pressure treatment at 400 to 450 MPa of the soaked samples or 450 to 500 MPa of the wetted samples for 2 minutes at 20 C rendered Salmonella undetectable.

Since salsa and guacamole are two examples of widely consumed Mexican dishes that incorporate raw jalapeno and serrano peppers, the scientists subsequently investigated the pressure-inactivation of Salmonella in salsa and guacamole, originating from contaminated peppers used as ingredients.

The storage time, up to 24 hours, of the condiments before HHP treatment as well as pH in a range from 3.8 to 5.3 and the type of acidulants used--vinegar and lemon juice--all influenced the extent of Salmonella inactivation by HHP.

Further information. Haiqiang Chen, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, 020 Townsend Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716; phone: 302-831-1045; fax: 302-831-2822; email:
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Publication:Emerging Food R&D Report
Date:May 1, 2012
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