Pathogens in low-moisture foods are an emerging food safety concern due to increased survival and thermotolerance in matrices with low water activity. However, limited data is publicly available for the thermotolerance of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., and Enterococcus faecium NRRL B-2354 (a Salmonella surrogate). The aims of this study were to identify differences in thermal inactivation rates between these organisms in three different low-moisture foods. Three model low-moisture foods (peanut butter, powder infant formula, and wheat flour) were inoculated with either E. faecium, a Salmonella spp. cocktail, or a L. monocytogenes cocktail using a dry inoculation method for a total of 9 treatments. Samples were heat treated in a hot water bath at predetermined temperatures, and bacterial survival was detected via direct plating on tryptic soy agar with 0.6% yeast extract. In peanut butter and most of the powder infant formula treatments, Salmonella spp. had significantly higher D-values than L. monocytogenes using comparable temperatures (p < 0.05). However, D-values between Salmonella spp. and L. monocytogenes were comparable in wheat flour and one of the treatment temperatures in powder infant formula (p > 0.05). For all but one of the treatments at the same temperature, E. faecium had significantly higher D-values than L. monocytogenes and Salmonella spp. in each food matrix (p < 0.05). The observed matrix effect on thermotolerance for each of the bacteria was reported in descending order as powder infant formula > peanut butter > wheat flour in the majority of the comparable D-values. While Salmonella continues to be the pathogen of concern in low-moisture foods due to survival and outbreaks, these results indicate L. monocytogenes can exhibit similar thermotolerances in relevant model low-moisture foods matrices.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science



Date Submitted


Document Type





food safety, low-moisture foods, water activity, thermal resistance, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Enterococcus faecium NRRL B-2354



Included in

Life Sciences Commons