The survival of Listeria monocytogenes was assessed during long-term storage on three dried fruits: dried apples, raisins and dried strawberries. Using sand as a carrier, the dried fruits were dry-inoculated with a four-strain cocktail of L. monocytogenes to achieve numbers of 4.0 to 4.6 log CFU/g. The inoculated foods were stored at 4°C, 25–81% relative humidity (RH) and 23°C, 30–35% RH for 336 days. Colonies of L. monocytogenes could not be recovered from the dried apples after inoculation, i.e., day 0. Concentrations of L. monocytogenes decreased rapidly on the raisins and dried strawberries during storage at 23°C, with enhanced survival observed at 4°C. Linear rates of decline for populations of L. monocytogenes during storage at 4°C on the raisins and dried strawberries were 0.1 and 0.2 log CFU/g/month, respectively. The relative distribution of the four L. monocytogenes strains making up the cocktail was determined by multiplex PCR at the beginning of storage and after 336 days on the dried fruits. At day 0, L. monocytogenes populations were predominantly composed of the serotype 1/2a and 3a strains on both the raisins and dried strawberries. After long-term storage at 4°C, a relative decrease in serotype 1/2a was observed on both fruits, coupled with relative increases in the serotype 3a strain during storage on both fruits, in addition to the serotype 1/2b strain on the raisins. These results demonstrate that L. monocytogenes is rapidly inactivated during storage on raisins and dried strawberries at 23°C, but capable of long-term survival at 4°C. Improved knowledge on the survival of L. monocytogenes on these commodities is important for predictive modeling and can be used to better inform microbial health risk assessments.

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This work was supported by the IAFNS Food Microbiology Committee.