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Improving the Microbiological Quality and Safety of Fresh-Cut Tomatoes by Low-Dose Electron Beam Irradiation

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Abstract:

The effect of electron beam irradiation on microbiological quality and safety of fresh-cut tomatoes was studied. Fresh tomatoes were obtained from a local supplier and then cut into cubes that were separated from the stem scars. Both cubes and stem scars were inoculated with a rifampin-resistant strain of either Salmonella Montevideo or Salmonella Agona, separated into treatment groups, and treated by electron beam irradiation at 0.0 (control), 0.7, or 0.95 kGy. The effect of electron beam irradiation on Salmonella, lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and mold counts and pH of tomato cubes and stem scars was determined over a 15-day storage period at 4°C. Results indicated that although irradiation treatment significantly reduced most microbial populations on tomato samples, there were no differences in the reduction of microbial populations between treatments of 0.7 and 0.95 kGy. Irradiation at either dose resulted in a significant reduction in Salmonella when compared with the control (P < 0.05). Lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, and molds were more resistant to irradiation than were Salmonella. No differences were detected between the two Salmonella serotypes in response to irradiation treatment. These results indicate that irradiation at doses of at least 0.7 kGy can be used for pathogen reduction in fresh-cut tomatoes. If the use of doses greater than 1 kGy were approved, this technology might be very effective for use in fresh-cut tomatoes to eliminate significant populations of pathogens and to ensure the microbial quality of the product.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Animal Science, 2471 TAMU, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2471, USA 2: National Center for Electron Beam Food Research, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77845-2259, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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