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Effect of Repeated Irrigation with Water Containing Varying Levels of Total Organic Carbon on the Persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Baby Spinach

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Abstract:

The California lettuce and leafy greens industry has adopted the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), which allows for 126 most-probable-number (MPN) Escherichia coli per 100 ml in irrigation water. Repeat irrigation of baby spinach plants with water containing E. coli O157:H7 and different levels of total organic carbon (TOC) was used to determine the epiphytic survival of E. coli O157:H7. Three irrigation treatments (0 ppm of TOC, 12 or 15 ppm of TOC, and 120 or 150 ppm of TOC) were prepared with bovine manure containing E. coli O157:H7 at either low (0 to 1 log CFU/100 ml) or high (5 to 6 log CFU/100 ml) populations, and sprayed onto baby spinach plants in growth chambers by using a fine-mist airbrush. MPN and direct plating techniques were used to determine the E. coli O157:H7 populations on the aerial plant tissue. Plants irrigated with high E. coli O157:H7 populations, regardless of TOC levels, showed a 3-log reduction within the first 24 h. Low levels of E. coli O157:H7 were observed for up to 16 days on all TOC treatments, ranging from 76.4 MPN per plant (day 1) to 0.40 MPN per plant (day 16). No viable cells were detected on spinach tissue 24 h after irrigation with water containing fewer than 126 CFU/100 ml E. coli O157:H7. Under growth chamber conditions in this study, E. coli O157:H7 populations in irrigation water that complies with the LGMA standards will not persist for more than 24 h when applied onto foliar surfaces of spinach plants.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-10-426

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, Building 201, BARC–East, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA 2: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, Building 201, BARC–East, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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