Salmonella spp. are reported to have an increased heat tolerance at low water activity (aw; measured by relative vapor pressure [rvp]), achieved either by drying or by incorporating solutes. Much of the published data, however, cover only a narrow treatment range and have been analyzed by assuming first-order death kinetics. In this study, the death of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium DT104 when exposed to 54 combinations of temperature (55 to 80°C) and aw (rvp 0.65 to 0.90, reduced using glucose-fructose) was investigated. The Weibull model (LogS = −btn) was used to describe microbial inactivation, and surface response models were developed to predict death rates for serovar Typhimurium at all points within the design surface. The models were evaluated with data generated by using six different Salmonella strains in place of serovar Typhimurium DT104 strain 30, two different solutes in place of glucose-fructose to reduce aw, or six low-aw foods artificially contaminated with Salmonella in place of the sugar broths. The data demonstrate that, at temperatures of ≥70°C, Salmonella cells at low aw were more heat tolerant than those at a higher aw but below 65°C the reverse was true. The same patterns were generated when sucrose (rvp 0.80 compared with 0.90) or NaCl (0.75 compared with 0.90) was used to reduce aw, but the extent of the protection afforded varied with solute type. The predictions of thermal death rates in the low-aw foods were usually fail-safe, but the few exceptions highlight the importance of validating models with specific foods that may have additional factors affecting survival
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