A laboratory scale continuous flowunit was set up and used to study the effect of pulsed electric fields (PEF) pretreatments on microbial inactivation by high pressure carbon dioxide (HPCD) processing with the aim of investigating the synergistic effect of the combined treatment. McIlvaine buffer solution inoculated with Escherichia coli cells ATCC26 was pre-treated with PEF (25 °C) at different field strength (E = 6–12 kV/cm) and energy input (WT = 10–40 J/mL) and then processed with HPCD (25 °C) at pressures of 8.0, 14.0 and 20.0 MPa and holding times of 4, 7 and 11 min. Results showed that treating the microbial suspension only with PEF, the inactivation level slightly increased with increasing the field strength and energy input with no significant effect of the pressure applied. The maximum inactivation level obtained was 2.25 Log-cycles at 12 kV/cm and 40 J/mL. When the bacterial cells were treated only with HPCD, the inactivation level was almost independent on the pressure of CO2, and gradually increased with increasing the holding time up to a maximumvalue of 2.41 Log-cycles. The combination of PEF and HPCD treatment resulted in a marked increase of themicrobial inactivation with increasing the field strength, energy input, holding time and operative pressure. A clear synergistic effect was evident when holding time was longer than 4 min, regardless the intensity of the PEF treatment applied.
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