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Effect of Vacuum-Steam-Vacuum Treatment on Microbial Quality of Whole and Fresh-Cut Cantaloupe

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Minimally processed fruits and vegetables have a limited shelf life because of deterioration caused by spoilage microflora and physiological processes. Cutting may increase microbial spoilage of fruits through transfer of microflora on the outer surfaces to the interior tissue. The objectives of this study were to use the vacuum-steam-vacuum (VSV) process to reduce indigenous spoilage microflora on the surface of cantaloupes and to investigate the effects of such treatments on transfer of spoilage microflora from the cantaloupe surface to the fresh-cut melon during rind removal and cutting. Whole cantaloupes were treated in the VSV processor, and fresh-cut pieces prepared from treated and control samples were stored at 5 and 10°C for up to 9 days. Presence and growth of mesophilic bacteria, yeasts and molds, and Pseudomonas spp. were determined in fresh-cut samples during storage. Texture and color (CIE L*, a*, and b*) also were measured during storage. VSV treatment resulted in a 1.0-log reduction of aerobic mesophilic bacteria, a 2.0-log reduction of yeasts and molds, and a 1.5-log reduction of Pseudomonas spp. on cantaloupe surfaces. VSV treatment significantly reduced transfer of yeasts and molds and Pseudomonas spp. from whole cantaloupe surface to fresh-cut pieces during preparation (P < 0.05). Texture and color of the fresh-cut pieces prepared from the VSV-treated whole melons were similar to those of the controls. The results of this study indicate that the use of the VSV process to reduce the surface populations of yeasts and molds and Pseudomonas spp. on whole cantaloupes will reduce subsequent transfer of these microbes to fresh-cut pieces and enhance the microbial quality of the fresh-cut product.

Document Type: Research Article

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

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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