Concentrations of Escherichia coli and Genetic Diversity and Antibiotic Resistance Profiling of Salmonella Isolated from Irrigation Water, Packing Shed Equipment, and Fresh Produce in Texas

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Fresh produce has been repeatedly implicated as a vehicle in the transmission of foodborne gastroenteritis. In an effort to assess the risk factors involved in the contamination of fresh produce with pathogenic bacteria, a total of 1,257 samples were collected from cantaloupe, oranges, and parsley (both in the field and after processing) and from the environment (i.e., irrigation water, soil, equipment, etc.). Samples were collected twice per season from two production farms per commodity and analyzed for the presence of Salmonella and Escherichia coli. E. coli was detected on all types of commodities (cantaloupe, oranges, and parsley), in irrigation water, and on equipment surfaces. A total of 25 Salmonella isolates were found: 16 from irrigation water, 6 from packing shed equipment, and 3 from washed cantaloupes. Salmonella was not detected on oranges or parsley. Serotyping, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), and repetitive element sequence-based PCR (rep-PCR) assays were applied to all Salmonella isolates to evaluate the genetic diversity of the isolates and to determine relationships between sources of contamination. Using PFGE, Salmonella isolates obtained from irrigation water and equipment were determined to be different from cantaloupe isolates; however, DNA fingerprinting did not conclusively define relationships between contamination sources. All Salmonella isolates were subjected to antimicrobial susceptibility testing using the disk diffusion method, and 20% (5 of 25) of the isolates had intermediate sensitivity to streptomycin. One Salmonella isolate from cantaloupe was resistant to streptomycin.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: ConAgra Foods, Six ConAgra Drive, Omaha, Nebraska 68102, USA 2: Department of Animal Science, Texas A&M University, 2471 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-2471, USA 3: Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Abbey Court, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1, Ireland 4: Department of Poultry Science, Texas A&M University, 2472 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-2472, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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