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Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on Laboratory-Inoculated Alfalfa Seed with Commercial Citrus-Related Products

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Alfalfa sprouts contaminated with the bacterial pathogens Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella have been the source of numerous outbreaks of foodborne illness in the United States and in other countries. The seed used for sprouting appears to be the primary source of these pathogens. The aim of this study was to determine whether the efficacy of commercial citrus-related products for sanitizing sprouting seed is similar to that of high levels of chlorine. Five products (Citrex, Pangermex, Citricidal, Citrobio, and Environné) were tested at concentrations of up to 20,000 ppm in sterile tap water and compared with buffered chlorine (at 16,000 ppm). Alfalfa seeds were inoculated with four-strain cocktails of Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 to give final initial concentrations of ca. 9.0 and 7.0 CFU/g, respectively. Treatments (10 min) with Citrex, Pangermex, and Citricidal at 20,000 ppm and chlorine at 16,000 ppm produced similar log reductions for alfalfa seed inoculated with four-strain cocktails of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella (3.42 to 3.46 log CFU/g and 3.56 to 3.74 log CFU/g, respectively), and all four treatments were significantly (P < 0.05) more effective than the control treatment (a buffer wash). Citrobio at 20,000 ppm was as effective as the other three products and chlorine against Salmonella but not against E. coli O157:H7. Environnéwas not more effective (producing reductions of 2.2 to 2.9 log CFU/g) than the control treatment (which produced reductions of 2.1 to 2.3 log CFU/g) against either pathogen. None of the treatments reduced seed germination. In vitro assays, as well as transmission electron microscopy, confirmed the antibacterial nature of the products that were effective against the two pathogens and indicated that they were bactericidal. When used at 20,000 ppm, the effective citrus-related products may be viable alternatives to chlorine for the sanitization of sprouting seed pending regulatory approval.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19038, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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