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Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella Typhimurium in Artificially Contaminated Alfalfa Seeds and Mung Beans by Fumigation with Ammonia

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Sprouts eaten raw are increasingly perceived as hazardous foods because they have been vehicles in outbreaks of foodborne disease, often involving Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella Typhimurium. Although the source of these pathogens has not been established, it is known that the seeds usually are already contaminated at the time sprouting begins. Earlier studies had shown that ammonia was lethal to these same pathogens in manure, so it seemed reasonable to determine whether ammonia was effective against them when associated with seeds to be used for sprouting. Experimentally contaminated (108 to 109 CFU/g) and dried seeds, intended for sprouting, were sealed in glass jars in which 180 or 300 mg of ammonia/liter of air space was generated by action of ammonium sulfate and sodium hydroxide. Samples were taken after intervals up to 22 h at 20°C. Destruction of approximately 2 to 3 logs was observed with both bacteria associated with alfalfa seeds, versus 5 to 6 logs with mung beans. Greater kills are apparently associated with lower initial bacterial loads. Germination of these seeds was unaffected by the treatment. It appears that this simple treatment could contribute significantly to the safety of sprout production from alfalfa seeds and mung beans.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: California Department of Health Services, 601 North 7th Street, Sacramento, California 94234-7320 2: Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2001

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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