Abstract: The microbiological stability of low-salt cheese has not been well documented. This study examined the survival of Salmonella in low-salt compared to regular salt Cheddar cheese with 2 pH levels. Cheddar cheeses were formulated at 0.7% and 1.8% NaCl (wt/wt) with both low and high-pH and aged for 12 wk resulting in four treatments: 0.7% NaCl and pH 5.1 (low-salt and low-pH); 0.7% NaCl and pH 5.5 (low-salt and high-pH); 1.8% NaCl and pH 5.7 (standard-salt and high-pH); and 1.8% NaCl and pH 5.3 (standard-salt and low-pH). Each treatment was comminuted and inoculated with a 5-serovar cocktail of Salmonella at a target level of 4 log CFU/g, then divided and incubated at 4, 10 and 21 °C for up to 90, 90, and 30 d, respectively. Salmonella counts decreased by 2.8 to 3.9 log CFU/g in all treatments. In the initial period of survival study, standard-salt treatments exhibited significantly lower Salmonella counts compared to low-salt treatments. The pH levels did not exhibit obvious significant effect in the Salmonella survival in low-salt treatments. Salmonella counts declined gradually regardless of a continuous increase in pH (end pH of 5.3 to 5.9) of low-salt treatments at all study temperatures. Salmonella counts were reduced faster at 21 °C storage. Although there were significant reductions in Salmonella counts, the treatments demonstrated survival of Salmonella for up to 90 d when stored at 4 or 10 °C and for up to 30 d at 21 °C, the need for good sanitation practices to prevent postmanufacturing cross contamination remains.
Practical Application: Low-salt aged Cheddar cheese could not support the growth of inoculated Salmonella and in fact gradual reduction in Salmonella count occurred during storage. Besides being nutritionally better, low or reduced salt Cheddar are safe as their full salt counterparts and that salt may only be a minor food safety hurdle regarding the post-aging contamination and growth of Salmonella. However, the treatments could not demonstrate complete destruction of Salmonella for up to 90 d when stored at 4 or 10 °C and for up to 30 d at 21 °C, the need for good sanitation practices to prevent postmanufacturing cross-contamination remains.