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J Food Sci. 2014 Dec;79(12):E2441-6. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.12696. Epub 2014 Nov 12.

Atmospheric pressure plasma treatment of black peppercorns inoculated with Salmonella and held under controlled storage.

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Inst. for Food Safety and Health (IFSH)/Illinois Inst. of Technology (IIT), 6502 South Archer Rd., Bedford Park, IL, 60501, U.S.A.


Spices, including black pepper, are a source of microbial contamination and have been linked to outbreaks of salmonellosis when added to products that undergo no further processing. Traditional thermal processing employed to reduce microbial contamination can lead to losses of heat-sensitive compounds. Thus, alternative processes such as atmospheric pressure plasma (APP) are desirable. The purpose of this research was to determine the efficacy of APP in the destruction of Salmonella inoculated on the surface of peppercorns. Secondarily, we examined the effect of storage on the subsequent inactivation of Salmonella on the surfaces of black peppercorns by APP. Black peppercorns inoculated with a cocktail of Salmonella enterica serotypes Oranienburg, Tennessee, Anatum, and Enteritidis were stored at 25 °C, 33% relative humidity (RH); 25 °C, 97% RH; and, 37 °C, 33% RH for 10 d and additionally at 25 °C, 33% RH for 1 and 30 d then treated with APP. Results showed that Salmonella populations decreased significantly (P < 0.05) with respect to the treatment time, but where not related to previous storage conditions (P > 0.05). Approximately a 4.5- to 5.5-log10 reduction in population was achieved after 60 to 80 s treatment. A combination of treatments, storage and 80 s of plasma, may achieve a total reduction on the order of 7-log10 CFU/g. These findings support the potential of APP to decontaminate Salmonella on the surfaces of black peppercorns and other dry foods and illustrate that a multiple hurdle approach may prove effective for achieving significant reductions of Salmonella in many low-moisture foods.


Salmonella; cold plasma; microbial inactivation; nonthermal; spices

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