The September issue of the Journal of Food Protection investigated how beef jerky can become contaminated with Salmonella. Several salmonellosis outbreaks have been associated with beef jerky, suggesting enhanced pathogen thermotolerance.

In this study, beef strips were inoculated with five-strain cocktails of either Salmonella serovars or Escherichia coli O157:H7, marinated at pH 5.3 for 22 to 24 hours at 5°C, and converted to jerky using various heating and drying regimes.

Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 reductions were best achieved by ensuring that high wet-bulb temperatures were reached and maintained early in the process followed by drying. In several trials, separate beef strips were inoculated with a commercial Pediococcus acidilactici starter culture as a potential surrogate for evaluating pathogen thermotolerance. The results of these trials suggested that this experimental approach may be useful for in-plant validation of process lethality.