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Behavior of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Damaged Leaves of Spinach, Lettuce, Cilantro, and Parsley Stored at Abusive Temperatures

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Recent foodborne illness outbreaks associated with the consumption of leafy green produce indicates a need for additional information on the behavior of pathogenic bacteria on these products. Previous research indicates that pathogen growth and survival is enhanced by leaf damage. The objective of this study was to compare the behavior of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on damaged leaves of baby Romaine lettuce, spinach, cilantro, and parsley stored at three abusive temperatures (8, 12, and 15°C). The damaged portions of leaves were inoculated with approximately 105 CFU E. coli O157:H7 per leaf. The pathogen grew on damaged spinach leaves held for 3 days at 8 and 12°C (P < 0.05), with the population increasing by 1.18 and 2.08 log CFU per leaf, respectively. E. coli O157:H7 did not grow on damaged Romaine leaves at 8 or 12°C, but growth was observed after 8 h of storage at 15°C, with an increase of less than 1.0 log. Growth of E. coli O157:H7 on Romaine lettuce held at 8 or 12°C was enhanced when inocula were suspended in 0.05% ascorbic acid, indicating the possibility of inhibition by oxidation reactions associated with tissue damage. Damaged cilantro and Italian parsley leaves held at 8°C for 4 days did not support the growth of E. coli O157:H7. Behavior of the pathogen in leaf extracts differed from behavior on the damaged tissue. This study provides evidence that the damaged portion of a leafy green is a distinct growth niche that elicits different microbial responses in the various types of leafy greens.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Botany and Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt 2: Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30605-7610, USA

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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