Effect of Modified Atmosphere Packaging on the Persistence and Expression of Virulence Factors of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Shredded Iceberg Lettuce

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Abstract:

Fresh-cut leafy greens contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 have caused foodborne outbreaks. Packaging conditions, coupled with abusive storage temperatures of contaminated lettuce, were evaluated for their effect on the potential virulence of E. coli O157:H7. Shredded lettuce was inoculated with 5.58 and 3.98 log CFU E. coli O157:H7 per g and stored at 4 and 15°C, respectively, for up to 10 days. Lettuce was packaged under treatment A (modified atmosphere packaging conditions used for commercial fresh-cut produce, in gas-permeable film with N2), treatment B (near–ambient air atmospheric conditions in a gas-permeable film with microperforations), and treatment C (high-CO2 and low-O2 conditions in a gas-impermeable film). E. coli O157:H7 populations from each treatment were determined by enumeration of numbers on MacConkey agar containing nalidixic acid. RNA was extracted from packaged lettuce for analysis of expression of virulence factor genes stx 2, eae, ehxA, iha, and rfbE. E. coli O157:H7 populations on lettuce at 4°C under all treatments decreased, but most considerably so under treatment B over 10 days. At 15°C, E. coli O157:H7 populations increased by at least 2.76 log CFU/g under all treatments. At 15°C, expression of eae and iha was significantly greater under treatment B than it was under treatments A and C on day 3. Similarly, treatment B promoted significantly higher expression of stx 2, eae, ehxA, and rfbE genes on day 10, compared with treatments A and C at 15°C. Results indicate that storage under near–ambient air atmospheric conditions can promote higher expression levels of O157 virulence factors on lettuce, and could affect the severity of E. coli O157:H7 infections associated with leafy greens.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-10-427

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Research Center, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, 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, Beltsville Area Research Center, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, Building 201, BARC–East, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA 3: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area Research Center, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, Building 201, BARC–East, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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