Ready-to-eat foods based on dried partially sprouted seeds have been associated with foodborne salmonellosis. Whereas research has focused on the potential for Salmonella initially present in or on seeds to grow and survive during fresh sprout production, little is known about the potential for growth and survival of Salmonella associated with seeds that have been partially sprouted and dried. The goal of this study was to determine the growth of Salmonella during soaking for partial germination of pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds and subsequent survival during drying and storage. Pumpkin, sunflower, and chia seeds were inoculated with a four-serotype Salmonella cocktail by the dry transfer method and were soaked in sterile water at 25 or 37°C for 24 h. During the soaking period, Salmonella exhibited growth rates of 0.37 ± 0.26, 0.27 ± 0.12, and 0.45 ± 0.19 log CFU/h at 25°C and 0.94 ± 0.44, 1.04 ± 0.84, and 0.73 ± 0.36 log CFU/h at 37°C for chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, respectively. Soaked seeds were drained and dried at 25, 51, and 60°C. Drying resulted in >5 log CFU/g loss at both 51 and 60°C and ∼3 log CFU/g loss at 25°C on partially sprouted pumpkin and sunflower seeds. There was no decrease in Salmonella during drying of chia seeds at 25°C, and only drying at 60°C provided losses >5 log CFU/g. Dried seeds were stored at 37 and 45°C at 15 and 76% relative humidity (RH) levels. The combination of temperature and RH exerted a stronger effect than either factor alone, such that rates at which Salmonella decreased generally followed this order: 37°C at 15% RH < 45°C at 15% RH < 37°C at 76% RH < 45°C at 76% RH for all seeds tested. Rates differed based on seed type, with chia seeds and chia seed powder having the smallest rate of Salmonella decrease, followed by sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Drying at higher temperatures (50 and 61°C) or storing at elevated temperature and humidity (45°C and 76% RH) resulted in significantly different rates of Salmonella decrease.
Keywords: Chia seeds; Low moisture; Pumpkin seed, Salmonella; Sunflower seed.