High-intensity pulsed electric field variables affecting Staphylococcus aureus inoculated in milk.
ABSTRACT Staphylococcus aureus is an important milk-related pathogen that is inactivated by high-intensity pulsed electric fields (HIPEF). In this study, inactivation of Staph. aureus suspended in milk by HIPEF was studied using a response surface methodology, in which electric field intensity, pulse number, pulse width, pulse polarity, and the fat content of milk were the controlled variables. It was found that the fat content of milk did not significantly affect the microbial inactivation of Staph. aureus. A maximum value of 4.5 log reductions was obtained by applying 150 bipolar pulses of 8 mus each at 35 kV/cm. Bipolar pulses were more effective than those applied in the monopolar mode. An increase in electric field intensity, pulse number, or pulse width resulted in a drop in the survival fraction of Staph. aureus. Pulse widths close to 6.7 micros lead to greater microbial death with a minimum number of applied pulses. At a constant treatment time, a greater number of shorter pulses achieved better inactivation than those treatments performed at a lower number of longer pulses. The combined action of pulse number and electric field intensity followed a similar pattern, indicating that the same fraction of microbial death can be reached with different combinations of the variables. The behavior and relationship among the electrical variables suggest that the energy input of HIPEF processing might be optimized without decreasing the microbial death.