Summary of Awards to Date

Impact of almond moisture, almond cultivar and Salmonella Serovar on the desiccation, persistence and heat resistance of Salmonella in almonds.

Date

Oct. 1, 2009 - Sep. 30, 2011

Award Number

2009-82

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety & UC ANR

Amount Awarded

$82,401.00

Investigator

Linda J. Harris, Ph.D.
University of California, Davis

Summary

Layman’s (Executive) Summary of Proposal

Since 2001, there have been three outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with consumption of raw almonds. More is known about the ecology of Salmonella in almond production and processing environments than for other nuts, however, significant and important questions remain. Most of the research to date has been done with a single almond cultivar (Nonpareil) and a single strain of Salmonella (Enteritidis Phage Type (PT) 30) that was isolated from the initial outbreak in 2001. The assumption was made that this combination represented the “worst case” that the almond industry would face. However, since 2001 other types of Salmonella have been associated with outbreaks linked to a number of other low-moisture foods (e.g., peanut butter). Given the heightened awareness of the importance of Salmonella in low-moisture foods it is prudent to reevaluate the initial assumption. The objectives of the study are 1) to determine the impact of almond moisture and cultivar on the heat sensitivity of Salmonella Enteritidis PT30 inoculated onto almonds; and 2) to evaluate differences in drying, storage and heat sensitivity on almonds among different Salmonella isolates. The results of this study will provide a database of information on the storage, heat and drying resistance of Salmonella serovars on almonds. This information will enhance confidence in thermal and other validation studies for almonds that are based on S. Enteritidis PT 30.

Technical Abstract

Nuts and other low-moisture foods have generally been considered low-risks for foodborne illness because they are consumed in a dry state where water activity (available moisture) is too low to support microbial growth. However, it is increasingly recognized that many foodborne pathogens can cause illness at very low concentrations, such that microbial growth is not required. Since 2001, three outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with consumption of raw almonds have been documented. Since that time significant advances have been made in understanding the ecology of Salmonella in the almond production and processing environment. Much of the work has been done with Salmonella Enteritidis Phage Type 30, the strain associated with a 2000-2001 outbreak and with a single almond cultivar. Although moisture levels are known to impact survival of Salmonella during thermal processing, a systematic evaluation of raw almond moisture that occurs in practice (3 to 8%) and heat resistance of Salmonella has not been made. The objectives of the study are 1) to determine the impact of almond moisture and cultivar on the heat sensitivity of Salmonella Enteritidis PT30 inoculated onto almonds; and 2) to evaluate differences in desiccation, storage and heat sensitivity among different Salmonella isolates. The results of this study will provide a database of information on the storage, heat and drying resistance of Salmonella serovars on almonds. This information will enhance confidence in thermal validation studies and the risk assessment for almonds that are based on S. Enteritidis PT 30 and should provide a standardized protocol for evaluating potential surrogates for use in these types of studies.