Research – Fate of Salmonella and Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli on Wheat Grain

Journal of Food Protection

Wheat flour has been connected to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses with increased frequency in recent years, specifically, outbreaks involving Salmonella enterica and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). However, there is little information regarding the survival of these pathogens on wheat grain during long-term storage in a low-moisture environment. This study aims to evaluate the long-term survival of these enteric pathogens on wheat grain over the course of a year. Hard red spring wheat was inoculated with strains of four serovars of Salmonella enterica (Enteritidis , Agona, Tennessee, and Montevideo) and six serotypes of EHEC (O157:H7, O26:H11, O121:H19, O45:NM, O111:H8, and O103:H2) in triplicate, sealed in Mylar bags to maintain the water activity, and stored at room temperature (22 ± 1°C). The survival of each pathogen was evaluated by plating onto differential media . Viable counts of strains from all four serovars of Salmonella (Enteritidis , Agona, Tennessee, and Montevideo) were detected on wheat grain stored at room temperature (22 ± 1°C) for the duration of the study (52 weeks). Viable counts of strains from EHEC serotypes O45:NM, O111:H8, and O26:H11 were only detected for 44 weeks and strains from serotypes O157:H7, O121:H19, and O103:H2 were only detected for 40 weeks until they passed below the limit of detection (2.0 log CFU/g). D -values were found to be significantly different between Salmonella and EHEC (adj. p ≤ 0.05) with Salmonella D -values ranging from 22.9 ± 2.2 to 25.2 ± 1.0 weeks and EHEC D -values ranging from 11.4 ± 0.6 to 13.1 ± 1.8 weeks. There were no significant differences amongst the four Salmonella strains or amongst the six EHEC strains (adj. p > 0.05). These observations highlight the wide range of survival capabilities of enteric pathogens in a low-moisture environment and confirm these pathogens are a food safety concern when considering the long shelf life of wheat grain and its products.

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