Transfer of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from Equipment Surfaces to Fresh-Cut Leafy Greens during Processing in a Model Pilot-Plant Production Line with Sanitizer-Free Water
Abstract:Escherichia coli O157:H7 contamination of fresh-cut leafy greens has become a public health concern as a result of several large outbreaks. The goal of this study was to generate baseline data for E. coli O157:H7 transfer from product-inoculated equipment surfaces to uninoculated lettuce during pilot-scale processing without a sanitizer. Uninoculated cored heads of iceberg and romaine lettuce (22.7 kg) were processed using a commercial shredder, step conveyor, 3.3-m flume tank with sanitizer-free tap water, shaker table, and centrifugal dryer, followed by 22.7 kg of product that had been dip inoculated to contain ∼106, 104, or 102 CFU/g of a four-strain avirulent, green fluorescent protein–labeled, ampicillin-resistant E. coli O157:H7 cocktail. After draining the flume tank and refilling the holding tank with tap water, 90.8 kg of uninoculated product was similarly processed and collected in ∼5-kg aliquots. After processing, 42 equipment surface samples and 46 iceberg or 36 romaine lettuce samples (25 g each) from the collection baskets were quantitatively examined for E. coli O157:H7 by direct plating or membrane filtration using tryptic soy agar containing 0.6% yeast extract and 100 ppm of ampicillin. Initially, the greatest E. coli O157:H7 transfer was seen from inoculated lettuce to the shredder and conveyor belt, with all equipment surface populations decreasing 90 to 99% after processing 90.8 kg of uncontaminated product. After processing lettuce containing 106 or 104 E. coli O157:H7 CFU/g followed by uninoculated lettuce, E. coli O157:H7 was quantifiable throughout the entire 90.8 kg of product. At an inoculation level of 102 CFU/g, E. coli O157:H7 was consistently detected in the first 21.2 kg of previously uninoculated lettuce at 2 to 3 log CFU/100 g and transferred to 78 kg of product. These baseline E. coli O157:H7 transfer results will help determine the degree of sanitizer efficacy required to better ensure the safety of fresh-cut leafy greens.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA 2: Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA 3: Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA 4: Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: November 1, 2012
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