Ozone Inactivation of Norovirus Surrogates on Fresh Produce
Preharvest contamination of produce by foodborne viruses can occur through a variety of agents, including animal feces/manures, soil, irrigation water, animals, and human handling. Problems of contamination are magnified by potential countrywide distribution. Postharvest processing
of produce can involve spraying, washing, or immersion into water with disinfectants; however, disinfectants, including chlorine, have varying effects on viruses and harmful by-products pose a concern. The use of ozone as a disinfectant in produce washes has shown great promise for bacterial
pathogens, but limited research exists on its efficacy on viruses. This study compares ozone inactivation of human norovirus surrogates (feline calicivirus [FCV] and murine norovirus [MNV]) on produce (green onions and lettuce) and in sterile water. Green onions and lettuce inoculated with
FCV or MNV were treated with ozone (6.25 ppm) for 0.5- to 10-min time intervals. Infectivity was determined by 50% tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50) and plaque assay for FCV and MNV, respectively. After 5 min of ozone treatment, >6 log TCID50/ml of FCV was inactivated
in water and ∼2-log TCID50/ml on lettuce and green onions. MNV inoculated onto green onions and lettuce showed a >2-log reduction after 1 min of ozone treatment. The food matrix played the largest role in protection against ozone inactivation. These results indicate that
ozone is an alternative method to reduce viral contamination on the surface of fresh produce.
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