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Decontamination of Green Onions and Baby Spinach by Vaporized Ethyl Pyruvate

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Foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce continue to be a major concern as consumer demand for healthier and nonthermally processed food increases. The objective of this study was to evaluate vaporized ethyl pyruvate (EP; CAS 617-35-6) as a safe alternative antimicrobial agent for the decontamination of Escherichia coli O157:H7 on green onions and spinach. Baby spinach leaves and green onions were inoculated with a five-strain cocktail of E. coli O157:H7 (pGFP) by the dipping method. Samples were treated with concentrations of 0, 42, 105, and 420 mg/liter vaporized EP in a 2.6-liter enclosed container. The efficacy of EP vapors for reducing E. coli O157:H7(GFP) populations on green onions and baby spinach at 4 and 10°C was monitored for 7 and 5 days, respectively. The lowest EP concentration (42 mg/liter) resulted in a 1.7-log reduction of E. coli O157:H7(GFP) on green onions after 7 days at 4°C and a 1.9-log reduction after 5 days at 10°C (P < 0.05). In baby spinach, the same concentration resulted in 0.9-log and 1.4-log reductions (P < 0.05) of E. coli O157:H7(GFP) after 7 days at 4°C and 5 days at 10°C, respectively. On green onions, the highest concentration of EP (420 mg/liter) reduced the population of E. coli O157:H7(GFP) by >4.7 log CFU/g after 7 days at 4°C and 5 days at 10°C. The same concentration was also effective for reducing E. coli O157:H7(GFP) populations in baby spinach by 4.3 log CFU/g after 7 days at 4°C and by >6.5 log CFU/g after 3 days at 10°C. Although the successful EP treatments minimally affected the sensory attributes of green onions, the treatments resulted in significant changes in the sensory attributes of baby spinach samples stored at 4 and 10°C. These results indicate that EP is an effective antimicrobial that could be used to enhance the safety of fresh produce depending on the sensory characteristics of the product.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Geneva, New York 14456, USA 2: Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Geneva, New York 14456, USA.

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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    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.

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