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Microbiological Standard Values and Stability of Flavorings

Flavorings are employed as ingredients in numerous segments of the food industry and must thus satisfy the requirements placed upon food additives. This also includes requirements relating to microbiological/ hygienic quality. differing bacteria spectra, bacteria counts and microbiological stabilities. Generally speaking, the bacteria counts in flavorings are not governed by any statutory or official rules and regulations. Article 6 of Council Directive 88/388/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to flavorings for use in foodstuffs and to source materials for their production contains the following statements: "The following shall be adopted in accordance with the procedure set out in Article 10... 2. where necessary,... 3. the microbiological criteria applicable to flavorings... The flavor industry does not deem a statutory stipulation to be necessary.

Flavorings comprise a heterogeneous group of products. They can contain a wide variety of ingredients and various methods can be employed to produce them. The spectrum of ingredients ranges from essential oils with bactericidal properties to spices with high microbial levels (see Table 1 for examples). Production methods include both simple compounding processes as well as physical-chemical and biotechnological processes (see Table 2 for examples). This means that - depending upon the type of ingredients and production conditions flavorings possess

Table 1: Examples of lngredients in Flavorings Type of Ingredients

Flavor-imparting ingredients Natural and synthetic flavoring substances Flavoring preparations Vanillin, benzaldehyde Essential oils, spice extracts, fruit and vegetable juice concentrates, meat, fish and crustacean extract Meat flavorings

Table 2: Examples of Production Processes for Flavorings Type of Flavoring

Liquid flavorings Blends Extracts Viscous flavorings Extracts Reaction flavorings Extraction with solvent or supercritical carbon dioxide Compounding and heating Treatment with enzymes or microorganisms Adsorption, spray drying, vacuum belt drying, compounding Compounding Extraction with solvents


Production Processes

Reaction flavorings Foods Other ingredients Solvents Carriers

Spices, seasonings Biotechnologically produced flavorings Ethanol, water, vegetable oils Starch, maltodextrin, gum arabic, lactose, table salt Dry flavorings

* V. Schmidt, K. Jones and Dr. G. Matheis, Product Safety, DRAGOCO, 37601 Holzminden, Germany ** Dr. R. Althage and Dr. U.-J. Salzer, Haarmann & Reimer, 37601 Holzminden, Germany


It is not possible to employ official methods for the microbiological examination of flavorings, as no official methods exist for this product group. It is only possible to employ several methods that are generally valid for foodstuffs (e.g. detection of salmonella). The literature tends to contain only sparse references to the microbiological examination and stability of flavorings1-6.

The standard values presented here are intended to serve the flavor and food industries as an orientation aid in connection with the microbiological/ hygienic assessment of flavorings. Special fields of applications for flavorings, e.g. dietetic foods, were not taken into consideration in formulating these standard values.

3. Standard values and stability

Here it is advisable to classify flavorings into the following three groups:

2. Prerequisites for the establishment of microbiological standard values and for references to microbiological stability
The assessment criteria have to take the nature of ingredients/raw materials and production methods into consideration. Criteria and guidelines also have to be oriented toward good manufacturing practice (GMP) and toward the respective state of the art and technology. Standard values may not represent ideal values, but must be oriented toward the realities of what is feasible.

Liquid flavorings Viscous flavorings, and Dry flavorings

Suitable quality control of raw materials and GMP (including hygiene and HACCP studies) have to assure that flavorings do not contain any pathogenic bacteria or their metabolites in quantities that would pose a health hazard to consumers. Pathogenic bacteria include, for example, salmonella, listeria, staphylococci and clostridia. To stipulate further guidelines, these flavoring categories will now be viewed individually.

In terms of content, guidelines have to contain those microbiological parameters that are characteristic of the type of flavoring in question and are required for assessing microbiological/hygienic quality. In the case of most flavorings, these parameters are total plate count as well as yeasts and molds as the yardstick for the microbiological status, as well as coliform bacteria and/or enterobacteria and Escherichia coli (E. coli) as indicators of hygienically proper processing (hygiene indicators).

3.1 Liquid flavorings 3.1.1 Water-free/low-water

The vast majority of liquid flavorings contain a high percentage (70-90 %) of solvents, e.g. ethanol, ethanolwater mixtures, glycols, di- and triacetin, triglycerides (e.g. vegetable oil) and acids (e.g. acetic acid). Flavoring substances, flavoring preparations (e.g. essential oils) and solvents can also possess antimicrobial properties, allowing this category of flavorings to be termed virtually bacteriafree and microbiologically stable, the latter also due to low water content and low aw value (aw = water activity).

And, finally, it is necessary for sufficient data, obtained by means of reliable examination methods, to be available. Examples of ingredients contained in flavorings and methods employed to produce flavorings are listed in Tables 1 and 2.


In the case of the other fla vorings in this category, the plate counts are govemed significantly by the nature of the ingredients, technology and any preservation methods that might be employed. It is not possible to indicate general standard values.

3.2 Viscous flavorings

This category includes, fr example, such products as reaction flavorings that have been subjected to high temperatures and extracts that were extracted with extraction solvents, or blends of these products. The following standard values apply in order to assure microbiologicaljhygienic quality:
max. 104 CFU/g max. 100 CFU/g max. 100 CFU/g max. 10 CFU/g

3.1.2 Water-containing
Water-containing flavorings include, for example, fruit and vegetable juice-containing flavorings and emulsions. To the extent that these are acidic flavorings (pH <3.0), the following standard values apply in order to assure microbiological/hygienic quality: Acid-tolerant microorganisms max. 100 CFU (Colony-Forming Units)/g Yeasts Max. 100 CFU/g.

Total plate count Yeasts and molds Enterobacteriaf coliforms E. coli

As a result of their low water content and low aw value, viscous flavorings are classified as microbiologically stable.

Table 3: General Microbiological Standard Values for Flavorings Type of Flavoring

Liquid Flavoring Water-free or low water Water-containing and acidic Water containing and non-acidic Viscous flavorings Total plate count Acid-tolerant microorganisms Yeasts Not possible to indicate general standard values Total plate count Yeasts and molds Enterobacteria/coliforms E. coli 104 100 100 10 Virtually bacteria-free, i.e. significantly<100 100 100


Standard Value (max. CFU/g)

Dry flavorings Production methods other than pure compounding Total plate count Yeasts and molds Enterobacteria/coliforms E. coli Not possible to indicate general standard values Pathogenic bacteria and their metabolites, e.g. salmonella, listeria, staphylococci, Below a concentration that would pose a health hazard for consumers 104 103 100 10

Dry blends Every type of flavoring


3.3 Dry flavorings 3.3.1 Production methods other than pure compounding
A variety of methods can be used to produce dry flavorings from liquid and viscous precursor products (e.g. adsorption, spray drying, vacuum belt drying, microencapsulation, freeze drying). The production processes, some of which are preceded by bacteriareducing process steps (e.g. pasteurization, ultra-high heating), reduce the plate count of the precursor products, so that the following standard values apply:

nection with the production of dry blends, their plate counts will be governed by those of the ingredients. It is not possible to indicate general guidelines. As a result of their low aw value, all dry flavorings (see 3.3.1 and 3.3.2) are considered to be microbiologically stable.

4. Summary
A major portion of flavorings consists of liquid, waterfree or low-water products that can be viewed as being virtually bacteria-free. The vast majority of the other types of flavorings contain only low micro-biological levels with total plate counts of up to a maximum of 104 CFU/g. They are microbiologically stable, i.e. no further bacterial increase occurs in the flavoring. Only dry blends (cf. 3.3.2) and water- containing, non-acidic flavorings can have higher plate counts.

Total plate count Yeasts and molds Enterobacteria/coliforms E. coli

max. 104 CFU/g max. 100 CFU/g max. 100 CFU/g max. 10CFU/g

3.3.2 Dry blends

Dry blends are produced from powdered ingredients. The ingredients range from those cited under 3.3.1 to spices containing high microbiological levels. Since no bacteria-reducing steps are usually performed in conTable 4: Microbiological Stability of Flavorings
Type of Flavoring Ingredient Plate Count Microbiocidic in Production Process BacteriaReduction in Production Process Water Activity Microbiological Level Microbiological Stability

Liquid flavorings Water-free or low-water Water-containing Viscous flavorings Extracts Reaction flavorings Blends Dry flavorings Production methods or than pure compounding Blends Medium Varies Yes Very low Minor Very good Varies Medium Low Varies No Varies Yes Yes No Low Low Low Low Low Low Good Good Good Low Varies Yes Varies No Varies Low High Very low2 Varies Very good Varies

Sometimes high



Very low

Sometimes high

Very good

Virtually bacteria-free


Suitable measures (quality control of raw materials, GMP, HACCP) assure that flavorings do not contain pathogenic bacteria and their metabolites in quantities that would pose a health hazard for consumers, e.g. salmonella, listeria, staphylococci and clostridia. Standard values and microbiological stability for the various categories of flavorings are listed in Tables 3 and 4.

1. Heath, H.B. and Reineccius, G.: Flavor Chemistry and Technology. Avi Publishing, Westport, CT, pp. 406 -429 (1986) 2. Salzer, U.-J.: Microbiological Quality Control of Flavors. Perf. Flav. l5(5),pp. 17-18(1990) 3. Reineccius, G.: Quality Control in the Flavor Industry. In: Source Book of Flavors. Second Edition (Reineccius, G., publisher). Chapman and Hall, New York, pp. 713 -730 (1994) 4- Lsing, G., Matheis, G., Romberg, H. and Schmidt, V.: Quality Control of Flavorings and their Raw Materials. DRAGOCO Flavoring Repotr42., pp. 93 -135 (1997) 5. Lgtenbrger, H.-J.: Microbiological Testing. In: Flavorings: Production, Composition, Applications, Regulations (Ziegler, E. and Ziegler, H., publishers). Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, pp. 634 -641 (1998) 6. Matheis, G.: Quality Control in the Flavor Industry. Fruit Processing 8, pp. 11-21 (1998)