Skip to main content

Occurrence and Levels of Fecal Indicators and Pathogenic Bacteria in Market-Ready Recycled Organic Matter Composts

Buy Article:

$37.00 plus tax (Refund Policy)


Landfill diversion of organic wastes through composting is making compost products available for agricultural and horticultural crops. On certified organic farms, nonsludge green waste and manure composts are widely used because the use of these products removes harvest date restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture when raw manure is applied. We quantified several pathogens in point-of-sale composts from 94 nonsludge facilities processing 2.2 million m3 year−1 of recycled green waste. Only one compost contained Salmonella (1.8 most probable number [MPN]/4 g), 28% had fecal coliforms exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency 503 sludge hygiene limits (1,000 MPN g−1), and 6% had detectable Escherichia coli O157:H7. In 22 of 47 samples, very low levels of Listeria spp. were found. However, in one sample the Listeria level was very high, coinciding with the highest overall level of all pathogen indicators. Seventy percent of the compost samples were positive for Clostridium perfringens, but only 20% of the samples had levels >1,000 CFU/g. All samples were positive for fecal streptococci, and 47% had >1,000 MPN g−1. Statistical analyses conducted using documented site characteristics revealed that factors contributing to elevated pathogen levels were large facility size, large pile size, and immaturity of compost. Application of the California Compost Maturity Index distinguished compost products that had very low levels of E. coli from those with high levels. Products produced with windrow methods were of higher microbiological quality than were those produced with static pile methods, and point-of-sale bagged composts scored very high. These data indicate that compost that is hygienic by common standards can be produced, but more effort is required to improve hygiene consistency in relation to management practices.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Woods End Laboratories, Inc., 290 Belgrade Road, Mt. Vernon, Maine 04352, USA 2: Dow AgroSciences, LLC, 9330 Zionsville Road, Indianapolis, Indiana 46268-1054, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • IAFP Members with personal subscriptions to JFP Online: To access full-text JFP or JMFT articles, you must sign-in in the upper-right corner using your Ingenta sign-in details (your IAFP Member Login does not apply to this website).

    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) 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.

    Print and online subscriptions are available to IAFP Members and institutional subscribers. IAFP Members with a subscription to JFP Online will have access to all available JFP and JMFT content. Online visitors who are not IAFP Members or journal subscribers will be charged on a pay-per-view basis. Membership and subscription information is available at
  • Information for Authors
  • Submit a Paper
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Membership Information
  • Information for Advertisers
  • ingentaconnect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites

Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
ingentaconnect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more