Free access
Spotlight Selection
Food Microbiology
Research Article
8 August 2022

Efficacy of Acidified Oils against Salmonella in Low-Moisture Environments


When processing low-moisture, high-fat foods such as peanut butter and nuts, water-based sanitization is unsuitable due to the immiscible nature of water and fats. Dry sanitization mainly uses flammable compounds such as isopropanol, requiring equipment cooling before application. The use of oils to deliver antimicrobials against foodborne pathogens enables the use of elevated temperatures, thus eliminating processing downtimes associated with dry sanitization. This study delivered organic acids and medium-chain fatty acids (100, 250, and 500 mM) in peanut oil against Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis desiccated at 75% relative humidity (RH). Acetic acid in peanut oil (AO) at 45°C was the most effective food-grade acid, causing a 4.4-log reduction in S. Enteritidis at 500 mM. AO caused cellular injury and was effective against a variety of S. Enteritidis strains. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that cells treated with 50 mM and 250 mM AO had significant membrane damage and reduced cellular respiration compared to untreated controls. Treatment efficacy increased with the increase in acid concentration, treatment duration, and treatment temperature from 20 to 45°C. Transmission electron microscopy after treatment with 100 and 250 mM AO revealed membrane ruffling and leakage in cell membranes, especially at 45°C. Reduction of the RH to 33% during desiccation of S. Enteritidis caused a decrease in AO efficacy compared to that at 75% RH, while at a higher RH of 90%, there was an increase in the efficacy of AO. Acidified oils can serve as robust, cost-effective replacements for dry-sanitation methods and improve safety of low moisture foods.
IMPORTANCE Currently, dry sanitization products used during food processing often contain flammable compounds which require processing to stop and equipment to cool before application. This leads to processing downtimes and consequently, economic losses. This challenge is compounded by exposure to dryness which frequently renders Salmonella resistant to heat and different antimicrobials. Thus, the development of heat-tolerant oil-based antimicrobial compounds is a novel approach for sanitizing in low-moisture (dry) environments such as those found in peanut butter, tree nuts, and chocolate manufacturing. This study shows that acidified oils, especially acetic acid in peanut oil at elevated temperatures (45°C), was highly effective against desiccated Salmonella. Acidified oils have the potential to replace dry sanitizers, increasing the frequency of sanitization, leading to an improvement in food safety.


More than 95% of human Salmonella infections are due to the ingestion of contaminated foods such as meat, dairy products, and vegetables (1). Nuts, which include tree nuts and peanuts are low-moisture foods with a low water activity (aw) and are not usually favorable for bacterial growth. Despite this, several outbreaks of Salmonella infection associated with peanuts and peanut butter have been reported since the mid-1990s. In low-aw foods such as peanut butter, ingesting as few as 10 to 100 Salmonella colony forming units (CFU) is enough to cause infections (2). One of the biggest challenges with processing and sanitation is that Salmonella exhibits a markedly increased heat resistance in low-aw food products, such as nuts (3).
Effective cleaning and sanitation are essential for preventing initial and cross-contamination of bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella (4). Traditional cleaning and sanitation utilize water-based cleaning (or wet cleaning), followed by a sanitizing step (5). Wet processing environments can encourage microbial growth, and splashing during wet cleaning can contribute to the aerosolization and the potential spread of pathogens (6). Wet cleaning of peanut butter and other nut pastes is especially challenging due to the high dust levels, high-fat content of peanuts, and the immiscible nature of nut dust and butter with water (79). Therefore, nonaqueous cleaning and sanitizing (also known as dry cleaning and dry sanitizing) procedures are used (10). However, traditional dry-cleaning methods have been reported to be inefficient for the processing of peanut butter and other low-moisture or low-aw food products (11). Disinfection of low-moisture food products is often based on the use of isopropanol or ethanol that evaporates after use (4). The major disadvantage of these compounds, however, is that they are flammable and require equipment to cool before disinfection (12, 13). This can lead to significant processing downtimes, causing economic losses. In this study, we evaluate the use of oils such as peanut oil as vehicles for delivering organic acids against bacterial contamination. The advantage of using oils for delivering antimicrobial compounds is the opportunity of using high temperatures, thus eliminating processing downtimes (and possibly, economic losses) associated with dry sanitization methods. Organic acids have been used effectively against enteric pathogens by other researchers (14). The effectiveness of organic acids against bacteria is related to the undissociated proportion of the acid, which in turn, is dependent upon the pKa of the acid and the pH of aqueous systems (15, 16). The undissociated form is not charged and is thought to pass through lipid bilayers and enter the bacterial cytoplasm (17). The undissociated form of the acid then dissociates into protons and anions in the cytoplasm, dropping the intracellular pH. Under normal conditions, ATP is generated in cells by the entry of H+ ions into the cytoplasm along a pH gradient. However, continuous entry of acid molecules inside bacterial cells leads to the accumulation of protons, leading to a disruption of intracellular pH homeostasis and proton motive force (18). We hypothesize that this will contribute to the antimicrobial effects of the acidified oils.
The use of oils can be an effective delivery approach to supply antimicrobials in environments where wet cleaning cannot be used. Food industries dealing with low-moisture foods often maintain their processing units at low aw, which allows contaminating microbes to exist in a desiccated state (19). In addition, Salmonella has been reported to demonstrate higher heat resistance in high-fat and low-aw environments such as in almonds, peanuts, and ground nut pastes (such as peanut butter) (20, 21). Hence, in this study, we have tested the efficacy of acidified oils against desiccated S. Enteritidis cells. The objective of this research is to provide a proof-of-concept that formulated oil-based sanitizing agents have the potential for combatting Salmonella enterica, which is a common foodborne pathogen in low-moisture food processing environments.


Evaluation of fatty acids dissolved in oil as antimicrobial treatments.

A variety of fatty acids were dissolved in peanut oil (500 mM) and evaluated for potential effectiveness as surface antimicrobials. The chain lengths of the different fatty acids tested were formic acid (C1), acetic acid (C2), propionic acid (C3), butyric acid (C4), valeric acid (C5), hexanoic acid (C6), heptanoic acid (C7), caprylic acid (C8), nonanoic acid (C9), and decanoic acid (C10). Short-chain fatty acids (organic acids), formic acid, and acetic acid were more effective than the other fatty acids studied (Fig. 1 and Table 1). For very short-chain fatty acids (acids with chain lengths C1 to C3), we observed that length of the chain of the fatty acid was inversely proportional to the efficacy of the acid. Once the fatty acid chain length was greater than C3 (C4 to C10), there was no relationship between chain length and efficacy. Caprylic acid (C8) was the most effective medium-chain fatty acid against S. Enteritidis. All acids were tested at 100, 250, and 500 mM. A traditional microbial log reduction (MLR) quantification assay was used, and an increase in MLR was observed with the increase in concentration of all the fatty acids tested (results not shown). Preliminary experiments demonstrate that the presence of unacidified oil did not have any effect on the growth of S. Enteritidis cultures (Fig. S1).
FIG 1 Influence of acids with different carbon chain lengths and heat against S. Enteritidis. Treatments were conducted at 20°C (blue open triangle) and 45°C (red open circle), along with nonacidified oil controls at 20°C (blue closed inverted triangle) and 45°C (red open square). The acids used were tested at a concentration of 500 mM in peanut oil and consisted of C1 (formic acid), C2 (acetic acid), C3 (propionic acid), C4 (butyric acid), C5 (valeric acid), C6 (caproic acid), C7 (heptanoic acid), C8 (caprylic acid), C9 (linoleic acid), and C10 (capric acid).
TABLE 1 Relationship between acidified oils (500 mM) and heat (at 45°C) against desiccated S. Enteritidis cells
Acid (carbon length)Treatment effectiveness (mean MLR ± the SD)Sum of acid and heat treatment MLR (A+B)aRelationship between acidified oils and heat
Oil (20°C):Heated oil (45°C):
Without acidWith acid (A)Without acid (B)With acid
Formic acid (1)0.51 ± 0.045.32 ± 0.490.50 ± 0.065.72 ± 0.445.82Additive
Acetic acid (2)0.43 ± 0.163.06 ± 0.410.30 ± 0.114.43 ± 0.193.36Synergistic
Propionic acid (3)0.34 ± 0.201.60 ± 0.150.41 ± 0.141.88 ± 0.302.01Additive
Butyric acid (4)0.32 ± 0.201.19 ± 0.200.32 ± 0.031.23 ± 0.161.51Additive
Valeric acid (5)0.37 ± 0.331.08 ± 0.180.27 ± 0.061.24 ± 0.171.35Additive
Caproic acid (6)0.21 ± 0.070.80 ± 0.190.17 ± 0.041.11 ± 0.180.98Additive
Heptanoic acid (7)0.27 ± 0.221.01 ± 0.210.39 ± 0.231.20 ± 0.251.41Additive
Caprylic acid (8)0.59 ± 0.091.83 ± 0.240.54 ± 0.042.37 ± 0.272.37Additive
Linoleic acid (9)0.17 ± 0.120.91 ± 0.160.36 ± 0.171.23 ± 0.251.27Additive
Capric acid (10)0.20 ± 0.030.99 ± 0.230.37 ± 0.171.37 ± 0.281.50Additive
That is, the calculated mathematical sum of acid and heat treatment MLR (A+B).
The combination of heat and acidified oils was also evaluated (Fig. 1 and Table 1). No significant MLR was observed in cells treated with unacidified oils at 20 or 45°C, indicating that peanut oil heated at 45°C for 30 min was not lethal against desiccated Salmonella. In Table 1, the mathematical values for the combination of heat and acid (the sum of the log reduction with acid measured at 20°C and log reduction at 45°C without acid) has been compared to the experimental acidified oil treatment at 45°C. For additive heat and acid relationships, the mathematical values in column 6 were similar to the experimental values in column 5 of Table 1. For synergistic relationships, the actual experimental values were significantly higher than the mathematical values. Acetic acid in oil showed a synergistic antimicrobial effect with heat, while the other acids demonstrated an additive effect with heat at 45°C. This indicates the antimicrobial properties of acetic acid in oil is enhanced in the presence of heat, leading to an increase in MLR values.
Since acetic acid and caprylic acid were the two food-grade acids tested that showed the highest levels of MLR, we analyzed whether a combination of the two acids would lead to enhanced MLR. The results shown in Fig. S2 in the supplemental material demonstrate that no significant differences were observed between the MLR obtained using the combination of the two acids versus using acetic acid alone at 20 and 45°C, indicating the absence of an additive effect. Similar results have been reported in previous studies where the MLR values of a combination of caprylic acid and peracetic acid, which is another short-chain organic acid, were comparable to those obtained when caprylic acid was used alone (22).

Effect of acid concentration, treatment temperature, and treatment duration on the MLR efficacy of acetic acid in oils against desiccated S. Enteritidis cells.

The antimicrobial effects of different acetic acid concentrations dissolved in peanut oil against S. Enteritidis at 20 and 45°C were analyzed using the traditional MLR quantification assay and expressed as MLR in Fig. 2. A synergistic relationship between acetic acid and heat was observed at concentrations between 50 and 500 mM. However, no significant MLR was observed after treatment with unacidified peanut oil preheated at 45 and at 20°C. Treatment with 500 mM acetic acid dissolved in peanut oil at 45°C was most effective against desiccated S. Enteritidis cells, causing a 4.4-log reduction in cell numbers. Figure S3 analyzes the antimicrobial effects of acetic acid delivered in peanut oil, corn oil, medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT), and mineral oil at 20 and 45°C. No significant differences could be observed in the MLR with changes in the type of oil used.
FIG 2 Effect of acetic acid concentrations and temperatures, 20 and 45°C, on the MLR of S. Enteritidis. Cells were desiccated on stainless-steel slides and treated with acetic acid in peanut oil at 20°C (white bars) and 45°C (gray bars). Different letters indicate statistically different values (two-way ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05).
The effect of the duration of treatment on the efficacy of acetic acid in peanut oil at 20°C (Fig. 3A) and 45°C (Fig. 3B) was quantified. The results demonstrate that there was an overall decrease in the number of surviving cells with the increase in treatment time for all concentrations of acidified oil at 20 and 45°C. At 20°C, the D values (decimal reduction time, slope of lines in Fig. 3A and B) for 50, 250, and 500 mM acetic acid in peanut oil were 19.8, 12.8, and 9.7 min, respectively, while at 45°C, the D values were 15.8, 9.1, and 7.7 min, respectively. Statistical analysis between the D values at 20 and 45°C for a specific treatment time and concentration were found to be statistically significant (two-way analysis of variance [ANOVA], P ≤ 0.05). No significant changes were observed in the number of surviving cells after exposure to unacidified oils for 30 min (0 mM acetic acid) at either temperature.
FIG 3 Influence of treatment time on the survival of desiccated S. Enteritidis cells after treatment with different concentrations of acetic acid in peanut oil at 20°C (A) and 45°C (B). S. Enteritidis was treated with unacidified peanut oil (closed circle), 50 mM acetic acid in oil (closed square), 250 mM acetic acid in oil (closed triangle), and 500 mM acetic acid in oil (open triangle).

Effect of acetic acid in oil on cellular damage and reduction in cellular respiration in S. Enteritidis cells.

S. Enteritidis cultures were treated with different concentrations of acetic acid dissolved in peanut oil, and the surviving cells were analyzed using an oCelloScope, which is an automated bright-field microscope. Lower BCA values were measured at time zero in cultures treated with higher concentrations of acidified oils. Quantification of the background corrected absorption (BCA) values is dependent on the number of dark pixels detected by the bright-field microscope of the oCelloScope, and MLR was calculated using the BCA values at time zero of the oCelloScope (23). The MLR values calculated from oCelloScope BCA values obtained with the oCelloScope were compared to MLR obtained with plate count assays, and no significant differences calculated using two-way ANOVA were observed in the MLR quantified by the two methods at 45°C (Fig. 4). Similar trends were observed after treatment with acetic acid in oil at 20°C (data not shown).
FIG 4 MLR of S. Enteritidis cells after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil for 30 min at 45°C measured using the bright-field microscopy (oCelloScope) BCA algorithm (gray bars) and a traditional MLR quantification assay (white bars). Different letters indicate statistically different values (two-way ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05).
Confocal laser scanning microscopy was used to analyze cell membrane damage and disruption in cellular respiration in S. Enteritidis cells after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil. BacLight staining was used to assess membrane damage (Fig. 5). For analysis of changes in cellular respiration after treatment with different concentrations of acetic acid dissolved in peanut oil, bacterial cells were stained with stains in the BacLight Redox Sensor kit (Fig. 6). Quantification of the images for the percentages of cells with membrane damage and reduced cellular respiration after treatment with the different concentrations of acidified oils is presented in Table 2. At both temperatures, we observed increased cell membrane damage and reduction in cellular respiration with the increase in the concentration of acid. Increase of treatment temperature from 20 to 45°C also caused a significant increase in membrane damage in cells treated with 250 mM acetic acid in peanut oil (P ≤ 0.05). Analysis of the effect of temperature on cellular respiration revealed that there was a significant reduction in cellular respiration at 45°C compared to 20°C after treatment with 50 and 250 mM acetic acid in oil (P ≤ 0.05). Analysis of the percentages of cells with reduced cellular respiration and membrane damage after treatment with unacidified oil (0 mM acetic acid) at 20°C versus 45°C revealed no statistical differences (P > 0.05).
FIG 5 Analysis of cell membrane damage of S. Enteritidis after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil using confocal microscopy. Desiccated cells were treated with 0, 50, and 250 mM acetic acid in oil at 20 and 45°C. After 30 min of treatment, cells were treated with BacLight Live/Dead stain. The green cells have intact membranes, and the red cells have damaged cellular membranes. Scale bar (all panels), 2 μm.
FIG 6 Analysis of changes in cellular respiration of S. Enteritidis after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil analyzed using confocal microscopy. Desiccated cells were treated with 0, 50, and 250 mM acetic acid in oil at 20 and 45°C. After 30 min of treatment, cells were stained with BacLight Redox Sensor stain. Red dots denote a precipitate formed only in actively respiring cells, and all cells, consisting of respiring and nonrespiring cells, are shown in green. Scale bar (all panels), 2 μm.
TABLE 2 Quantification of the percentages of cells with membrane damage and reduced cellular respiration after treatment of desiccated S. Enteritidis cells with different concentrations of acetic acid in peanut oil at 20 and 45°Ca
Acetic acid concn (mM)Treatment at 20°CTreatment at 45°C
Mean % cells ± SD with damaged cell membrane*Mean % cells ± SD with inactive/reduced cellular respiration†Mean % cells ± SD with damaged cell membrane*Mean % cells ± SD with inactive/reduced cellular respiration†
05.277 ± 5.032.567 ± 1.508.61 ± 6.457.406 ± 6.71
5047.21 ± 9.5934.98 ± 6.9062.156 ± 8.5664.29 ± 8.60
25078.155 ± 8.4871.112 ± 7.1690.058 ± 3.36582.035 ± 6.04
See Fig. 5 and 6. *, BacLight Live Dead stain; †, BacLight CTC respiration stain.
Changes in the structural integrity of cells were observed after treatment with different concentrations of acetic acid in peanut oil at 20 and 45°C using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) (Fig. 7). For the treated samples, we observed a weakening in the integrity of the inner and outer bacterial membranes and irregular periplasmic space. There was evidence of leakage in the cell membranes and possible outflow of cellular contents outside the cells, especially after treatment with 250 mM acetic acid in oil at 45°C. There was also a marked difference in the cytoplasm of the cells after exposure to heat alone and to acidified oils, with regions of high and low electron density, indicating a difference in the density of cellular contents or presence of granularity in the cytoplasm of cells (white arrows in Fig. 7). The presence of abnormalities in cellular structure increased with the increase in the concentration of the acids, as well as with the increase in treatment temperature from 20 to 45°C. Cells in the liquid control and oil controls at 20 and 45°C had intact cellular membranes. The results indicate that acidified oils cause cellular damage in S. Enteritidis cells.
FIG 7 TEM revealed changes in cellular morphology and structural changes in S. Enteritidis after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil. Desiccated cells were treated with 100 mM acetic acid for 30 min and 250 mM acetic acid for 15 min at 20 and 45°C. After treatment, cells were prepared for analysis using TEM. Nondesiccated cells grown in TSB (liquid control) and desiccated cells treated with nonacidified oil for 30 min at 20°C and 45°C were used as oil controls. Black arrows indicate disrupted bacterial membranes, and white arrows indicate membrane granularity. Scale bars (all panels), 0.2 μm or 200 nm.

Effect of acetic acid in peanut oil on other strains of Salmonella enterica.

The National Advisory Committee on the Microbiological criteria for foods, which is a United States-based committee, suggests the use of multiple strains of a pathogen for analysis of potency of antimicrobial compounds to be used in foods (24). Since majority of this work has used a single strain of S. enterica to assess efficacy of acidified-oil treatment, other S. enterica serovars were tested individually and combined together as a cocktail. MLR was quantified using the traditional MLR quantification assay. The strains tested were Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (ATCC BAA-1045, phage type 30) denoted as 1045, Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Michigan (ATCC BAA-709) denoted as 709, Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Montevideo (ATCC BAA-710) denoted as 710, and Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Gaminara (ATCC BAA-711) denoted as 711. The individual strains and the cocktail demonstrated similar sensitivities to the acetic acid concentrations in oil compared to S. Enteritidis BAA-1045, which has been used as the major strain in this study (Fig. 8). We observed that acidified oils are effective against a variety of S. enterica strains.
FIG 8 Influence of acetic acid in oil on different strains of S. enterica. Strains BAA-709, -710, -711, -1045 and a cocktail of the strains were desiccated on stainless steel slides at 75% ERH and treated with 500 mM acetic acid in oil at 20°C (white bars) and 45°C (gray bars) for 30 min. The MLR was calculated using a traditional MLR quantification assay. Different letters indicate statistically different values (two-way ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05).

Analysis of the effects of relative humidity used during desiccation of S. Enteritidis cells on the efficacy of acetic acid in oil treatment.

All experiments so far were conducted with cells dried at 75% equilibrium relative humidity (ERH) prior to treatment. However, food processing environments can have variable levels of humidity. Therefore, cells were dried at 33% ERH and 90% ERH, along with 75% ERH, to determine the influence of cellular dryness on susceptibility to acidified oils (Fig. 9). The results indicate that with the reduction of ERH to 33%, there was a reduction in the efficacy of the acidified oils and at a higher ERH of 90%, there was an increase in the efficacy of the acidified oils compared to that at 75% ERH. Thus, efficacy of the acidified oils increased with the increase in the percentage of ERH used during desiccation at 20 and 45°C. Changes in MLR (traditional MLR quantification assay) were quantified by plating surviving cells in tryptic soy agar (TSA), and CFU obtained on xylose lysine deoxycholate (XLD) agar were used for the quantification of the percentage of cells with injury. Also, for cells desiccated at all three relative humidities, there was a significant increase in MLR and the percent injury with the increase in concentration of acetic acid in oil.
FIG 9 Influence of equilibrium relative humidity (ERH) used during desiccation on the efficacy of acetic acid in oil treatment against S. Enteritidis. Cells were desiccated at 20°C for 20 h over saturated salt solutions to generate relative humidities of 33% (), 75% (), or 90% (). Panel A and B show the microbial log reduction after treatment at each temperature and panels C and D presents the level of injury in the surviving cells at each temperature. The control for % injury was the level of injury in the nontreated desiccated cells. For each graph, different letters were statistically different (two-way ANOVA, P ≤ 0.05), while the same letters indicate no statistical differences between the two.


In this study, we have evaluated the antimicrobial properties of acidified oils against desiccated S. Enteritidis. We observed that organic acids dissolved in oils had significant antimicrobial properties. We quantified the MLR of 500 mM a variety of fatty acids with chain lengths between C1 to C10 against desiccated S. Enteritidis (Fig. 1). Formic acid was the most effective organic acid and is a common additive in diets of poultry and other livestock to limit the presence of S. enterica in poultry feed (25). However, formic acid is known to have toxic effects on humans and its use is mostly limited to livestock feed (26). Although formic acid and acetic acid were highly effective, propionic acid, which is another very short-chain organic acid, was not as effective against S. Enteritidis. Since our experiments revealed that among the food-grade acids tested, acetic acid was the most effective in causing a significant reduction in S. Enteritidis MLR, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the antimicrobial effects of acetic acid in oil, along with the mechanisms of its antimicrobial action.
Higher levels of MLR were observed with the increase in the concentration of acetic acid and treatment duration (Fig. 2 and 3). We observed a synergistic effect of heat and acetic acid in oil on MLR of desiccated cells whereby the efficacy of the acid was significantly enhanced at high temperatures (Fig. 1 and Table 1). This is an important observation since it can be used to formulate effective sanitizing treatments against desiccated S. enterica which are highly resistant to heat, especially in low-moisture food products (27). In addition, acetic acid in oil was found to be effective against different S. enterica strains, when treated individually as well as in a cocktail (Fig. 8), providing more evidence for the wide range of efficacy of acidified oils against S. enterica. For the other acids tested in this study, the relationship between the acids and heat were found to be additive (Fig. 1 and Table 1). Exposure to heat below 60°C is reported to be associated with minor increases in bacterial membrane permeability in S. enterica (28). This is a possible factor contributing to the higher MLR of acidified oils at high temperatures. The effect of heat in enhancing the antimicrobial properties of organic acids against other foodborne pathogens such as E. coli has been reported in a previous study (29).
Our lab has previously used the bright-field microscope of the oCelloScope to study the effects of antimicrobial compounds on bacterial cells (23). The advantage of using this method is that the antimicrobial treatment is performed on cells desiccated in microtiter plate well, and then neutralized, without washing steps that may contribute to cell loss, such as when staining cells on a microscope slide. Using this method, we observed that cells treated with higher concentrations of acetic acid had lower BCA values. In other words, with the increase in concentration of acetic acid in oil, there was a reduction in the number of detectable cells after treatment. The BCA values are dependent on the pixel density recorded by the bright field microscope of the oCelloScope. Since light microscopy cannot differentiate between live and dead cells, a nonlytic antimicrobial treatment would be expected to have similar BCA values before and after treatment (23). The measurement of reduction in BCA values after treatment was likely due to cellular lysis. In our study, after treatment with acidified oils, MLR values calculated from the BCA values of the oCelloScope and plate count methods were the same, indicating that lysis likely occurred during treatment. The effect of organic acids in inhibiting growth of Gram-negative pathogens has been reported by other researchers (3033). Proposed mechanisms include disruption and destabilization of outer membranes, osmotic imbalance, buildup of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and inhibition of ATP synthesis (3437). When desiccated cells containing damaged macromolecules and ROS are rehydrated, the damaged macromolecules and ROS gain mobility inside cells, leading to lethal damage to the cells (38). A combination of the above-mentioned factors is likely responsible for the cellular lysis in S. Enteritidis. Acetic acid stress is reported to cause apoptosis and necrosis in Zygosaccharomyces bailii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (39, 40) and programmed cell death in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (41). Acetic acid in oil was effective against S. Enteritidis desiccated on stainless steel surfaces (used for majority of the experiments in this study), as well as on cells desiccated in polystyrene wells in 96-well plates (Fig. 4). Since stainless steel and plastic materials are commonly used in food processing industries (42), this highlights the effectiveness of acidified oils as antimicrobial compounds against Salmonella contamination on different surfaces.
Confocal microscopy helped in the further elucidation of some of the mechanisms of action of acetic acid in oil on recovered S. Enteritidis cells. The results (Fig. 5 and 6) indicate that an increase in the concentration of acetic acid, as well as an elevation in the treatment temperature, led to increased cell membrane permeability and reduction in cellular respiration. The integrity of cellular membranes is closely linked to the cellular respiration of aerobically respiring bacteria (43). Gram-negative pathogens such as E. coli and S. enterica contain membrane-bound enzymes that help in the generation of electrons that are coupled to the electron transport chain (ETC) of the respiratory pathway (44). Thus, disruption of cell membranes by acidified oils coupled with heat has a negative effect on cellular respiration, possibly by disrupting the ETC, which leads to the reduction in cellular respiration. Also, disruption of the ETC and cellular respiration has been reported to lead to the production of ROS, which in turn damages cellular components such as membrane lipids and proteins (45). Thus, disruption in cellular respiration can promote the further degradation of bacterial cell membranes. Evidence for this phenomenon was observed in Table 2, where an increase in the percentage of cells with membrane damage was associated with a similar increase in the percentage of cells with reduced cellular respiration. Disruption of bacterial cell membranes and changes in bacterial respiration after exposure to organic acids has been reported previously (3033, 46, 47). The absence of any significant increase in the number of cells with membrane damage or reduced respiration after exposure to heated unacidified oils indicates that oils alone do not significantly affect the integrity of desiccated S. Enteritidis cells. This is consistent with findings by other researchers who have concluded that heated oils alone were not sufficient to eliminate S. enterica contamination (4).
TEM revealed the presence of structural changes in recovered S. Enteritidis cells after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil (Fig. 7). The TEM images revealed cells with damaged membranes, irregular membranes, membrane ruffling, and changes in cellular periplasm of the bacterial cells. Similar changes in S. enterica cell structure have been reported to be brought about by bactericidal compounds and treatment with other acids such as malic acid (48). The formation of protein aggregates in E. coli cells after exposure to environmental stresses such as heat and exposure to antibiotics has been reported (49). We observed the presence of granularity in the cytoplasm, or regions of high and low electron density in the bacterial cytoplasm of cells treated with acidified oils at both temperatures, and after treatment with hot oil alone at 45°C. It is possible that the granularity in our system is indicative of aggregates of cytoplasmic contents as a stress response against heat and acidified oil treatment in S. Enteritidis, as seen in other systems (49).
Cells desiccated at lower %ERH values were found to be more resistant, while at higher %ERH values, cells became more sensitive to acidified oil treatment (Fig. 9). We hypothesize that the hydrophobic environment created by the oil, facilitates the entry of acid molecules inside bacterial cells, possibly through an affinity of the acid to the water remaining within the desiccated cellular cytoplasm. Thus, the cellular water concentration may be important for the sensitivity to the acidified oil treatment. Alternatively, it is possible that the increased resistance to antimicrobials after exposure to low %ERH is due to an adaptive stress response in cells, as reported by researchers in other pathogens (50, 51). Exposure to reduced %ERH is known to cause a differential change in the expression of several genes in S. enterica which confers resistance against future exposure to environmental stresses (adaptive stress response) (52, 53).
Edible oils such as palm oil and sesame oil have been used for the delivery of compounds in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry (54, 55), and peanut oil emulsions have been reported for the delivery of insulin in the pharmaceutical industry (56). In the present study, peanut oil has been used as the primary vehicle for the delivery of organic acids. However, we tested the efficacy of corn oil, mineral oil and MCT oil (see Fig. S2) for the delivery of acetic acid as an antimicrobial compound. The results indicate that the oils used in this study do not possess significant intrinsic antimicrobial properties and primarily serve as a carrier of the organic acids. The high oxidative and thermal stability of MCT oils (57, 58) make them suitable alternative carriers for delivery of antimicrobial compounds at high temperatures. To our knowledge, use of oils as carriers for organic acids is a novel method of delivery of antimicrobial compounds against foodborne pathogens. Acidified oils could be used as an effective means of sanitation in low-moisture food processing facilities where use of water-based sanitization can be challenging.


The results obtained in this study indicate that peanut oil acidified with acetic acid is effective against S. enterica contamination. This study demonstrates for the first time, the use of acidified oils for the destruction of a common foodborne pathogen, S. Enteritidis, on food contact surfaces. The results described here indicate that acidified oils can reduce reliance on the use of water for cleaning and sanitation. Use of oil-based antimicrobials is relevant, especially for the sanitization in industrial settings associated with processing of low-aw foods. The antimicrobial formulations described here have the potential to serve as cost-effective robust replacements to the dry sanitation methods currently in use and can improve the safety of low-aw foods.


Bacterial isolates and growth media.

The bacterial isolates used in the study are S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis (ATCC BAA-1045, phage type 30), S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Michigan (ATCC BAA-709), S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Montevideo (ATCC BAA-710), and S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Gaminara (ATCC BAA-711). The bacterial strains were maintained as frozen stocks in a −80°C freezer in Trypticase soy broth (TSB; B.D. Diagnostic Systems) supplemented with 15% glycerol. The bacterial cultures were revived in tryptic soy agar (TSA; B.D. Diagnostic Systems) and used for inoculum preparation. Frozen cultures of Salmonella were revived by streaking on TSA and incubated at 37°C for 18 to 20 h to create a bacterial lawn.

Chemicals and antimicrobial compounds.

Organic acids formic acid (Fisher Chemical, A1199P-1), acetic acid (glacial; Fisher Chemical, A38), propionic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, 402907), butyric acid (Sigma-Aldrich, B103500), valeric acid (Sigma-Aldrich, 240370), hexanoic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, 21530), heptanoic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, 21530), caprylic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, W279900), nonanoic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, N29902), and decanoic acid (Sigma-Aldrich, C1875) were used as antimicrobial compounds in this study. Stock solutions (500 mM) of the acids were prepared in sterile peanut oil and further diluted in sterile peanut oil to reach concentrations of 250, 100, 50, and 25 mM. Acidified oils of the above-mentioned concentrations were also prepared in sterilized corn oil, mineral oil, and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. The oils were purchased from the local supermarket and were sterilized by autoclaving for 30 min. Subsequently, 100-μL portions of the oils were plated on TSA to confirm their sterility. To desiccate S. Enteritidis cells at 33, 75, and 90% equilibrium relative humidity (ERH), saturated solutions of MgCl2 (ACS Organics, 7786-30-3), NaCl (Fisher Chemical, S271-1), and KCl (ACS Organics, LC187901), respectively, were used.

Evaluation of the susceptibility of S. Enteritidis to acidified oils on stainless steel slides.

Inoculum preparation was done using previously reported methods (59) with variations. Stainless steel slides were used for inoculation of S. Enteritidis and the other serovars of S. enterica since it is one of the most common materials used in processing surfaces in food processing facilities (60). For evaluation of the effect of acidified oils against desiccated S. Enteritidis cells using stainless steel, stainless-steel slides (type 304, no. 2B, 5 × 1.2 cm) were soaked in acetone overnight to remove grease (61) and then washed with water and autoclaved. The inocula were prepared from 20-h lawns on TSA, and cells were suspended in filter-sterilized deionized water to an optical density at 600 nm (OD600) of 0.9. An inoculum of 20 μL was added to achieve an initial cell level of 106 to 107 CFU/slide. For the cocktail study, the strains were individually streaked on TSA and, after 20 h, the OD600 values for the individual strains were adjusted to 0.9 in sterile-distilled water and then combined, prior to adding a 20-μL drop on a degreased sterile stainless-steel slide. The slides were incubated inside desiccators containing saturated solutions of MgCl2, NaCl, and KCl at 20°C (33, 75, and 90% ERH, respectively). After 20 h, the dried bacterial inoculum films on the stainless-steel slides were used for subsequent experiments.
Antimicrobial treatment of the desiccated cells on stainless steel slides was performed as follows. To each slide, 50 μL of acidified oil was added over the desiccated inoculum film, followed by incubation at room temperature (20°C) or in a 45°C air incubator for 30 min. For treatment at 45°C, the oils were preheated at 45°C prior to treatment. After treatment, the slides were transferred into sterile tubes containing 10 mL of TSB buffered with 0.25 mM HEPES (Sigma-Aldrich) at pH 7.2. Sterile glass beads were added to aid in the removal of surviving bacteria from the surfaces of the stainless-steel slides. The tubes were vortexed for 5 min, and serial dilutions of the bacterial cells were plated on TSA for enumeration of the total number of surviving cells. After 20 h of incubation at 37°C, the colonies were counted, and the CFU/slide were calculated. Nontreatment control samples were stainless-steel slides containing desiccated bacterial cells that were not treated with acidified oils. The MLR was calculated by plating on TSA (traditional MLR quantification assay) using the following formula: MLR = log CFUnontreatment – log CFUtreatment.
Numbers of injured survivors were evaluated during select experiments using xylose lysine deoxycholate (XLD) agar (Remel, R459902) (62, 63). It was assumed that calculated survivors on TSA contained both injured and healthy cells and that only healthy cells would grow on XLD agar. The levels of injured cells were calculated using the following formula: injured cells = log CFUTSA – log CFUXLD. The MLR quantification and injury assays were run in three technical and three biological replicates for each concentration of the acidified oils.

Evaluation of the susceptibility of S. Enteritidis to acidified oils using light microscopy.

For analysis of MLR of S. Enteritidis using an automated bright field microscope (oCelloScope; BioSense Solutions, Farum, Denmark), an inoculum was prepared from overnight lawns of S. Enteritidis that were suspended in filter-sterilized deionized water to obtain an inoculum with an OD600 of 0.1. The inoculum (20 μL) was added inside the wells of a 96-well microtiter plate (Thermo Fischer, model 266120) to obtain an initial cell level of 104 to 105 CFU/well. The plates were incubated inside desiccators maintained at 75% ERH by adding a saturated solution of NaCl and stored at 20°C for 20 h.
Oil formulations (50 μL) for each acid concentration were added to wells containing desiccated cells in a 96-well plate (in triplicates for each concentration), followed by incubation for 30 min. After treatment, 200 μL of TSB buffered with 0.25 mM HEPES (pH 7.2) was added to the wells to neutralize the acidified oils. The plates were centrifuged for 10 min at 2,000 rpm until the oils rise to the top of the wells. The 96-well plates were then placed inside the oCelloScope to analyze bacterial growth according to previously described methods (23). The background corrected absorption (BCA) algorithm and BCA normalized algorithm on the software UniExplorer (version 10.1) were selected for analysis. BCA values from treated and untreated samples were used from the zero-time point to calculate MLR. Using data from the oCelloScope, MLR was calculated with the following formula: BCAnontreatment – BCAtreatment. Nontreatment control samples were wells in a 96-well plate containing desiccated bacterial cells that were not treated with acidified oils. All experiments were run in three technical and three biological replicates for each concentration of the antimicrobial compounds.

Analysis of cell membrane damage and changes in cellular respiration of S. Enteritidis after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil.

S. Enteritidis cells were desiccated overnight on stainless steel slides and held at 75% ERH, as described above. After 20 h, the slides were treated with different concentrations of acetic acid dissolved in peanut oil for 30 min. Six slides containing the desiccated inoculum of S. Enteritidis were treated with a specific concentration of acetic acid in peanut oil to increase the number of cells that would be used for further analysis using confocal microscopy. After treatment, the acidified oils were neutralized by adding the slides to sterile tubes containing 10 mL of TSB buffered with 0.25 mM HEPES (pH 7.2). The tubes were vortexed to ensure the transfer of the bacterial cells from the surfaces of the slides to the TSB. The slides were removed from the tubes aseptically, and the tubes were centrifuged at 6,000 rpm for 15 min. After centrifugation, the medium was discarded, and the bacterial pellets were suspended in 5 mL of fresh buffered TSB and centrifuged at 6,000 rpm for 10 min. The medium was discarded again, and the pellets were dissolved in 1 mL of buffered TSB. The dissolved pellets from the different tubes containing S. Enteritidis cells that were treated with the acidified oils (six tubes for each concentration of acetic acid) were combined into one fresh tube. The resulting tubes, each containing 6 mL of bacterial suspensions recovered after treatment with a specific concentration of acetic acid were further centrifuged at 6,000 rpm for 10 min. The centrifugations were repeated three more times with the pellets being dissolved in 1 mL, 500 μL, and 250 μL of sterile-distilled water. The bacterial cell suspensions in 250 μL were used for staining to analyze bacterial cell membrane damage and changes in cellular respiration after treatment with acetic acid in oil.
The cell suspensions were treated with Live/Dead BacLight (Thermo Fisher Live/Dead bacterial viability kit, L7012) and held in the dark for 15 min for analysis of bacterial membrane damage using confocal microscopy. The kit contains a mixture of Syto 9 (membrane permeable green, fluorescent stain) and propidium iodide (membrane impermeable red fluorescent stain). Using this staining kit, cells with damaged membranes were stained red with propidium iodide, and all cells, irrespective of their membrane integrity, were stained with the green-fluorescent stain Syto 9 (64). For analysis of changes in cellular respiration, the bacterial suspensions were treated with BacLight Redox Sensor stain (Thermo Fisher CTC vitality kit, B34956) according to instructions provided by the company. The kit consists of CTC (which forms a fluorescent red precipitate, formazan, in actively respiring cells) and Syto 24, which is a green nucleic acid counterstain. The cells were initially stained with CTC and held at 37°C for 30 min, followed by staining with Syto 24 for 15 min. Actively respiring cells take up CTC, which is reduced by the bacterial electron transport chain to a red florescent formazan precipitate, and all cells were stained with a membrane-permeable green florescent stain Syto 24 (6567). After staining for analysis of cellular damage and cellular respiration changes, 50-μL portions of the stained cell suspensions were transferred to poly-d-lysine-coated glass-bottom microwell dishes (Mat Tek, P35GC) and air dried in a fume hood for 2 h. The cells were then imaged using a A1R-SIMe confocal laser scanning microscope. For quantification of cell membrane damage and changes in cellular respiration at 20 and 45°C, each treatment consisted of three biological replicates and, each time, the images were recorded from 20 fields of view. The percentages of cells with membrane damage and reduced cellular respiration were quantified for each of the images using the quantification software of NIS elements (Nikon Instruments, Inc.). Data from 60 images for every sample were analyzed to quantify the percentages of cellular damage and reduction in cellular respiration.

Analysis of changes in cellular structure of S. Enteritidis cells after treatment with acetic acid in peanut oil.

Desiccated inoculum of S. Enteritidis was prepared on stainless-steel slides and treated with acetic acid in peanut oil as described above. Surviving cells were recovered in 300 mL of buffered TSB from a total of 30 stainless steel slides and centrifuged to obtain a cell pellet. The bacterial pellets were fixed overnight using 1.6% paraformaldehyde and 2% glutaraldehyde in 0.1 M sodium cacodylate buffer. Next day, the pellets were rinsed twice in 0.1 M sodium cacodylate buffer for 15 min. The pellets were stained with 2% osmium tetroxide in 0.2 M sodium cacodylate buffer (1:1) for 2 h and then rinsed three times with 0.1 M sodium cacodylate buffer for 15 min each time. The pellets were dehydrated with 10, 20, 30, 50, 70, 80, and 95% ethanol for 20 min each. This was followed by dehydration in 100% ethanol for 20 min three times. The pellets were then incubated with propylene oxide and resin (1:1) for 20 min three times, followed by incubation in propylene oxide and resin overnight. The next morning, the resin was changed with fresh resin three times and then left overnight in resin. The following morning, the pellets were placed in a 60°C oven for 48 h. The resin pellets were then sectioned using ultramicrotomy to produce sections of 70-nm thickness and then imaged by using a Philips CM10 transmission electron microscope.

Data analysis.

All the data are expressed as means ± the standard deviations. GraphPad Prism was used to generate all the graphs in this project. Statistical significance was calculated with GraphPad Prism using two-way ANOVA. A P value of ≤0.05 was considered statistically significant.


This study is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA); the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); the Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment; and the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst under project number MAS00567; and with support by the Foundational and Applied Science Program (grant 2020-67017-30786) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA or NIFA. Confocal microscopy data were gathered in the Light Microscopy Facility and Nikon Center of Excellence at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences, UMass Amherst with support from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and we thank James Chambers for his support. The TEM work described was conducted at Electron Microscopy Facility at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, under award S10 OD025113-01 from the National Center for Research Resources, and we thank Gregory Hendricks and Keith Reddig for their help with TEM work.
The authors have no competing interests.

Supplemental Material

File (aem.00935-22-s0001.pdf)
ASM does not own the copyrights to Supplemental Material that may be linked to, or accessed through, an article. The authors have granted ASM a non-exclusive, world-wide license to publish the Supplemental Material files. Please contact the corresponding author directly for reuse.


Crum-Cianflone NF. 2008. Salmonellosis and the gastrointestinal tract: more than just peanut butter. Curr Gastroenterol Rep 10:424–431.
Finn S, Condell O, McClure P, Amézquita A, Fanning S. 2013. Mechanisms of survival, responses and sources of Salmonella in low-moisture environments. Front Microbiol 4:331.
Liu S, Tang J, Tadapaneni RK, Yang R, Zhu MJ. 2018. exponentially increased thermal resistance of Salmonella spp. and Enterococcus faecium at reduced water activity. Appl Environ Microbiol 84:e02742-17.
Grasso EM, Grove SF, Halik LA, Arritt F, Keller SE. 2015. Cleaning and sanitation of Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter processing equipment. Food Microbiol 46:100–106.
Rahman S, Khan I, Oh D-H. 2016. Electrolyzed water as a novel sanitizer in the food industry: current trends and future perspectives. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Safety 15:471–490.
Gil MI, Selma MV, López-Gálvez F, Allende A. 2009. Fresh-cut product sanitation and wash water disinfection: problems and solutions. Int J Food Microbiol 134:37–45.
Shachar D, Yaron S. 2006. Heat tolerance of Salmonella enterica serovars Agona, Enteritidis, and Typhimurium in peanut butter. J Food Prot 69:2687–2691.
Kulkarni CV. 2017. Ultrasonic processing of butter oil (ghee) into oil-in-water emulsions. J Food Process Preserv 41:e13170.
Aviles B, Klotz C, Smith T, Williams R, Ponder M. 2013. Survival of Salmonella enterica serotype Tennessee during simulated gastric passage is improved by low water activity and high fat content. J Food Prot 76:333–337.
Burnett SL, Hagberg R. 2014. Dry cleaning, wet cleaning, and alternatives to processing plant hygiene and sanitation, p 85–96. In Gurtler JB, Doyle MP, Kornacki JL (ed), The microbiological safety of low water activity foods and spices. Springer, New York, NY.
Park HW, Xu J, Balasubramaniam VM, Snyder AB. 2021. The effect of water activity and temperature on the inactivation of Enterococcus faecium in peanut butter during superheated steam sanitation treatment. Food Control 125:107942.
Brooks MR, Crowl DA. 2007. Vapor flammability above aqueous solutions of flammable liquids. J Loss Prev Process Ind 20:477–485.
Abdelkhalik A, Askar E, Markus D, Brandes E, El-sayed I, Hassan M, Nour M, Stolz T. 2016. Explosion regions of propane, isopropanol, acetone, and methyl acetate/inert gas/air mixtures. J Loss Prev Process Ind 43:669–675.
Gómez-García M, Sol C, de Nova PJG, Puyalto M, Mesas L, Puente H, Mencía-Ares Ó, Miranda R, Argüello H, Rubio P, Carvajal A. 2019. Antimicrobial activity of a selection of organic acids, their salts and essential oils against swine enteropathogenic bacteria. Porcine Health Manag 5:32.
Bertheussen A, Simon S, Sjöblom J. 2017. Equilibrium partitioning of naphthenic acids and bases and their consequences on interfacial properties. Colloids Surf 529:45–56.
Mani-López E, García HS, López-Malo A. 2012. Organic acids as antimicrobials to control Salmonella in meat and poultry products. Food Res Int 45:713–721.
Ricke SC. 2003. Perspectives on the use of organic acids and short chain fatty acids as antimicrobials. Poult Sci 82:632–639.
Guan N, Liu L. 2020. Microbial response to acid stress: mechanisms and applications. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 104:51–65.
Esbelin J, Santos T, Hébraud M. 2018. Desiccation: an environmental and food industry stress that bacteria commonly face. Food Microbiol 69:82–88.
Beuchat LR, Komitopoulou E, Beckers H, Betts RP, Bourdichon F, Fanning S, Joosten HM, Ter Kuile BH. 2013. Low-water activity foods: increased concern as vehicles of foodborne pathogens. J Food Prot 76:150–172.
Chen W, Golden DA, Critzer FJ. 2014. Salmonella survival and differential expression of fatty acid biosynthesis-associated genes in a low-water-activity food. Lett Appl Microbiol 59:133–138.
Manjankattil S, Nair DVT, Peichel C, Noll S, Johnson TJ, Cox RB, Donoghue AM, Kollanoor Johny A. 2021. Effect of caprylic acid alone or in combination with peracetic acid against multidrug-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg on chicken drumsticks in a soft scalding temperature-time setup1. Poult Sci 100:101421.
Ghoshal M, Ryu V, McLandsborough L. 2022. Evaluation of the efficacy of antimicrobials against pathogens on food contact surfaces using a rapid microbial log reduction detection method. Int J Food Microbiol 373:109699.
National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. 2010. Parameters for determining inoculated pack/challenge study protocols. J Food Prot 73:140–202.
Ricke SC, Dittoe DK, Richardson KE. 2020. Formic acid as an antimicrobial for poultry production: a review. Front Vet Sci 7:563.
Liesivuori J, Savolainen H. 1991. Methanol and formic acid toxicity: biochemical mechanisms. Pharmacol Toxicol 69:157–163.
Podolak R, Enache E, Stone W, Black DG, Elliott PH. 2010. Sources and risk factors for contamination, survival, persistence, and heat resistance of Salmonella in low-moisture foods. J Food Prot 73:1919–1936.
Ebrahimi A, Csonka LN, Alam MA. 2018. Analyzing thermal stability of cell membrane of Salmonella using time-multiplexed impedance sensing. Biophys J 114:609–618.
Huang Y, Chen H. 2011. Effect of organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, and mild heat on inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on baby spinach. Food Control 22:1178–1183.
Kim SA, Rhee MS. 2013. Marked synergistic bactericidal effects and mode of action of medium-chain fatty acids in combination with organic acids against Escherichia coli O157:H7. Appl Environ Microbiol 79:6552–6560.
Milillo SR, Martin E, Muthaiyan A, Ricke SC. 2011. Immediate reduction of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium viability via membrane destabilization following exposure to multiple-hurdle treatments with heated, acidified organic acid salt solutions. Appl Environ Microbiol 77:3765–3772.
Raftari M, Jalilian FA, Abdulamir AS, Son R, Sekawi Z, Fatimah AB. 2009. Effect of organic acids on Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Staphylococcus aureus contaminated meat. Open Microbiol J 3:121–127.
Alakomi HL, Skyttä E, Saarela M, Mattila-Sandholm T, Latva-Kala K, Helander IM. 2000. Lactic acid permeabilizes Gram-negative bacteria by disrupting the outer membrane. Appl Environ Microbiol 66:2001–2005.
Carpenter CE, Broadbent JR. 2009. External concentration of organic acid anions and pH: key independent variables for studying how organic acids inhibit growth of bacteria in mildly acidic foods. J Food Sci 74:R12–R15.
Wang J, Tao D, Wang S, Li C, Li Y, Zheng F, Wu Z. 2019. Disinfection of lettuce using organic acids: an ecological analysis using 16S rRNA sequencing. RSC Adv 9:17514–17520.
Seo Y-s, Lee G, Song S, Kim K, Cho M. 2021. Combinatorial treatment using citric acid, malic acid, and phytic acid for synergistical inactivation of foodborne pathogenic bacteria. Korean J Chem Eng 38:826–832.
Wang C, Chang T, Yang H, Cui M. 2015. Antibacterial mechanism of lactic acid on physiological and morphological properties of Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes. Food Control 47:231–236.
Greffe VRG, Michiels J. 2020. Desiccation-induced cell damage in bacteria and the relevance for inoculant production. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 104:3757–3770.
Palma M, Guerreiro JF, Sá-Correia I. 2018. Adaptive response and tolerance to acetic acid in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Zygosaccharomyces bailii: a physiological genomics perspective. Front Microbiol 9:274.
Chaves SR, Rego A, Martins VM, Santos-Pereira C, Sousa MJ, Côrte-Real M. 2021. Regulation of cell death induced by acetic acid in yeasts. Front Cell Dev Biol 9:642375.
Zuo Z, Zhu Y, Bai Y, Wang Y. 2012. Acetic acid-induced programmed cell death and release of volatile organic compounds in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Plant Physiol Biochem 51:175–184.
Ismaïl R, Aviat F, Michel V, Le Bayon I, Gay-Perret P, Kutnik M, Fédérighi M. 2013. Methods for recovering microorganisms from solid surfaces used in the food industry: a review of the literature. Int J Environ Res Public Health 10:6169–6183.
Zhao RZ, Jiang S, Zhang L, Yu ZB. 2019. Mitochondrial electron transport chain, ROS generation and uncoupling. Int J Mol Med 44:3–15.
Maier RJ, Olczak A, Maier S, Soni S, Gunn J. 2004. Respiratory hydrogen use by Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium is essential for virulence. Infect Immun 72:6294–6299.
Rowe-Magnus DA, Kao AY, Prieto AC, Pu M, Kao C. 2019. Cathelicidin peptides restrict bacterial growth via membrane perturbation and induction of reactive oxygen species. mBio 10:e02021-19.
Cherrington CA, Hinton M, Chopra I. 1990. Effect of short-chain organic acids on macromolecular synthesis in Escherichia coli. J Appl Bacteriol 68:69–74.
Przybylski KS, Witter LD. 1979. Injury and recovery of Escherichia coli after sublethal acidification. Appl Environ Microbiol 37:261–265.
Matijašević D, Pantić M, Rašković B, Pavlović V, Duvnjak D, Sknepnek A, Nikšić M. 2016. The antibacterial activity of Coriolus versicolor methanol extract and its effect on ultrastructural changes of Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella Enteritidis. Front Microbiol 7:1226.
Govers SK, Mortier J, Adam A, Aertsen A. 2018. Protein aggregates encode epigenetic memory of stressful encounters in individual Escherichia coli cells. PLoS Biol 16:e2003853.
Wesche AM, Gurtler JB, Marks BP, Ryser ET. 2009. Stress, sublethal injury, resuscitation, and virulence of bacterial foodborne pathogens. J Food Prot 72:1121–1138.
Cebrián G, Sagarzazu N, Pagán R, Condón S, Mañas P. 2010. Development of stress resistance in Staphylococcus aureus after exposure to sublethal environmental conditions. Int J Food Microbiol 140:26–33.
Finn S, Händler K, Condell O, Colgan A, Cooney S, McClure P, Amézquita A, Hinton JCD, Fanning S. 2013. ProP is required for the survival of desiccated Salmonella enterica serovar typhimurium cells on a stainless steel surface. Appl Environ Microbiol 79:4376–4384.
Spector MP, Kenyon WJ. 2012. Resistance and survival strategies of Salmonella enterica to environmental stresses. Food Res Int 45:455–481.
Fagionato Masiero J, Barbosa EJ, de Oliveira Macedo L, de Souza A, Nishitani Yukuyama M, Arantes GJ, Bou-Chacra NA. 2021. Vegetable oils in pharmaceutical and cosmetic lipid-based nanocarriers preparations. Ind Crop Prod 170:113838.
Lubbe A, Verpoorte R. 2011. Cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants for specialty industrial materials. Ind Crops Prod 34:785–801.
Augustin DL, Mbaye G, Ndiaye A, Mady SP, Djiboune A, Soumboundou M, Ndiaye I, Anton N, Vandamme T, Diarra M. 2015. Peanut oil-based W1/O/W2 multiple emulsions for oral administration of insulin. Int J Curr Res 7:22420–22423.
Taha A, Hu T, Zhang Z, Bakry AM, Khalifa I, Pan S, Hu H. 2018. Effect of different oils and ultrasound emulsification conditions on the physicochemical properties of emulsions stabilized by soy protein isolate. Ultrason Sonochem 49:283–293.
Nimbkar S, Leena MM, Moses JA, Anandharamakrishnan C. 2022. Medium chain triglycerides (MCT): state-of-the-art on chemistry, synthesis, health benefits and applications in food industry. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf 21:843–867.
Uesugi AR, Danyluk MD, Harris LJ. 2006. Survival of Salmonella Enteritidis phage type 30 on inoculated almonds stored at −20, 4, 23, and 35°C. J Food Prot 69:1851–1857.
Katsigiannis AS, Bayliss DL, Walsh JL. 2021. Cold plasma decontamination of stainless-steel food processing surfaces assessed using an industrial disinfection protocol. Food Control 121:107543.
Cabeça TK, Pizzolitto AC, Pizzolitto EL. 2012. Activity of disinfectants against foodborne pathogens in suspension and adhered to stainless steel surfaces. Braz J Microbiol 43:1112–1119.
Kang D-H, Fung DYC. 2000. Application of thin agar layer method for recovery of injured Salmonella Typhimurium. Int J Food Microbiol 54:127–132.
Toledo J, Pérez Pulido R, Abriouel H, Grande MJ, Gálvez A. 2012. Inactivation of Salmonella enterica cells in Spanish potato omelette by high hydrostatic pressure treatments. Innov Food Sci Emerg Technol 14:25–30.
Hossain MA, Park H-C, Lee K-J, Park S-W, Park S-C, Kang J. 2020. In vitro synergistic potentials of novel antibacterial combination therapies against Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. BMC Microbiol 20:118.
Asadishad B, Ghoshal S, Tufenkji N. 2011. Method for the direct observation and quantification of survival of bacteria attached to negatively or positively charged surfaces in an aqueous medium. Environ Sci Technol 45:8345–8351.
Créach V, Baudoux A-C, Bertru G, Rouzic BL. 2003. Direct estimate of active bacteria: CTC use and limitations. J Microbiol Methods 52:19–28.
Vilhena C, Kaganovitch E, Grünberger A, Motz M, Forné I, Kohlheyer D, Jung K. 2019. Importance of pyruvate sensing and transport for the resuscitation of viable but nonculturable Escherichia coli K-12. J Bacteriol 201:e00610-18.

Information & Contributors


Published In

cover image Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume 88Number 1623 August 2022
eLocator: e00935-22
Editor: Edward G. Dudley, The Pennsylvania State University
PubMed: 35938829


Received: 8 June 2022
Accepted: 8 July 2022
Published online: 8 August 2022


Request permissions for this article.


  1. Salmonella
  2. food processing
  3. low-water-activity foods
  4. peanut butter contamination
  5. acidified oils
  6. organic acids



Mrinalini Ghoshal
Department of Microbiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Shihyu Chuang
Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Ying Zhang
School of Health Science and Engineering, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, Shanghai, China
Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA


Edward G. Dudley
The Pennsylvania State University


The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Metrics & Citations


Note: There is a 3- to 4-day delay in article usage, so article usage will not appear immediately after publication.

Citation counts come from the Crossref Cited by service.


If you have the appropriate software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice. Simply select your manager software from the list below and click Download.

View Options

Figures and Media






Share the article link

Share with email

Email a colleague

Share on social media

American Society for Microbiology ("ASM") is committed to maintaining your confidence and trust with respect to the information we collect from you on websites owned and operated by ASM ("ASM Web Sites") and other sources. This Privacy Policy sets forth the information we collect about you, how we use this information and the choices you have about how we use such information.
FIND OUT MORE about the privacy policy