Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Food Science (MS)

Degree Level



Food Science


Jennifer C. Acuff

Committee Member

Griffiths G. Atungulu

Second Committee Member

Jung A. Lee

Third Committee Member

Kristen E. Gibson


Inactivation, Milk Powder, Salmonella


Historically, low-water activity (aw) foods (aw <0.65) were considered to be microbiologically safe for consumption. However, these foods have been implicated in outbreaks of pathogens such as Salmonella enterica, at a frequency that surely challenges this assumption of safety. Although usually implicated in outbreaks involving poultry and egg products, Salmonella spp. have frequently been the culprit in several outbreaks and recalls associated with low-water activity foods (LWAF) due to contamination resulting from the environment, animals, or even the employees during pre-or post-processing. One such LWAF that has been associated with Salmonella spp. outbreaks is milk powder. Milk powders are used in a variety of products ranging from infant formula to confectionary goods. With their widespread use, improving their safety is imperative. A key step in improving their safety is to thoroughly investigate preventive controls related to milk powder processing. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) established the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule, which mandates that processors design and establish a food safety plan outlining any potential hazards and the steps they will take to ensure those hazards do not compromise the safety of the product. Presently, the dairy industry does not have an established kill-step for milk powders post-spray drying. Spray drying may reduce some microbial populations, however, desiccation(e.g., spray drying) is not considered a kill-step. The work outlined in this thesis aims to assist our dairy industry partners in establishing their own thermal process for milk powders post-spray drying. Moisture sorption isotherms of two milk powders (nonfat dry milk: NFDM and a milk protein concentrate with 85% protein content: MPC-85) were determined and showcased that the temperatures at which the isotherms were determined (23, 40, or 60°C) significantly affected both the adsorption and desorption isotherms (p<0.0001) for each powder. Secondly, the thermal inactivation kinetics of Salmonella spp. in both powders were evaluated at two different water activities (0.20 and 0.30) and three temperatures (75, 80, and 85°C) to determine the effect of water activity on the thermal resistance of a cocktail of Salmonella spp. The D-values of Salmonella were heavily influenced by the thermal treatment temperature (p< 0.0001), but not the water activity (p >0.05). The overall findings contained within this thesis provide valuable information about the thermal inactivation kinetics of Salmonella spp. to our partners in the dairy industry so that they may implement an appropriate thermal process for their milk powders.