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Confectioneries are sweet, shelf-stable products with low water activity (aw), below 0.85. There are two kinds of confectionery: sugar confectionery and chocolate confectionery.

Their low aw makes confectioneries resistant to bacterial growth; however, bacterial survival in these products, e.g. Salmonella, is possible. Spoilage is due to the growth of osmophilic/xerophilic yeasts and molds unless the aw is below 0.61.

Sugar confectioneries include hard candies, toffee, caramel, fondants, creams, and pastes. Hard candies and toffee do not spoil due to their low aw. The rest of the products may spoil by osmophilic/xerophilic yeasts and molds.

Chocolate confectioneries are manufactured with cocoa and chocolate. They are spoiled by osmophilic/xerophilic yeasts and molds.

Fat blooms and sugar blooms on chocolate are physical defects that are frequently misdiagnosed as mold growth. Fat bloom is associated with improper temperature control. Sugar bloom is similar to fat bloom but it not greasy.

Although bacteria cannot grow in most confectioneries, pathogens are likely to survive in the product for several months after manufacturing. There have been reported several cases of salmonellosis caused by the contamination of chocolate products. Low levels (below 103) of Staphylococcus aureus or Bacillus cereus may be present but do not seem to indicate any health hazard at these levels.

Recommended tests:

Aerobic plate count.
Total coliform and E. coli.
Osmophilic/xerophilic yeasts and molds.

Additional tests:

Salmonella.

Staphylococci.

Adapted from:

Konkel, P. J. 2001. Confectionery Products, p. 555. In F. P. Downes and K. Ito (eds.), Compendium of Methods for the Microbiological Examination of Foods. American Public Health Association, Washington, DC.