Microbial safety of oily, low water activity food products: A review

Amin N. Olaimat, Tareq M. Osaili, Murad A. Al-Holy, Anas A. Al-Nabulsi, Reyad S. Obaid, Akram R. Alaboudi, Mutamed Ayyash, Richard Holley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Oily, low water activity (OL aw) products including tahini (sesame seed paste), halva (tahini halva), peanut butter, and chocolate, have been recently linked to numerous foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls. This review discusses the ingredients used and processing of OL aw products with a view to provide greater understanding of the routes of their contamination with foodborne pathogens and factors influencing pathogen persistence in these foods. Adequate heat treatment during processing may eliminate bacterial pathogens from OL aw foods; however, post-processing contamination commonly occurs. Once these products are contaminated, their high fat and sugar content can enhance pathogen survival for long periods. The physiological basis and survival mechanisms used by pathogens in these products are comprehensively discussed here. Foodborne outbreaks and recalls linked to OL aw foods are summarized and it was observed that serotypes of Salmonella enterica were the predominant pathogens causing illnesses. Further, intervention strategies available to control foodborne pathogens such as thermal inactivation, use of natural antimicrobials, irradiation and hydrostatic pressure are assessed for their usefulness to achieve pathogen control and enhance the safety of OL aw foods. Sanitation, hygienic design of manufacturing facilities, good hygienic practices, and environmental monitoring of OL aw food industries were also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103571
JournalFood Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Chocolate
  • Halva
  • Low water activity
  • Oily foods
  • Peanut butter
  • Tahini

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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