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Development and Validation of a Mathematical Model for Growth of Pathogens in Cut Melons

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Abstract:

Many outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of fresh-cut melons have been reported. The objective of our research was to develop a mathematical model that predicts the growth rate of Salmonella on fresh-cut cantaloupe over a range of storage temperatures and to validate that model by using Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, using both new data and data from the published studies. The growth of Salmonella on honeydew and watermelon and E. coli O157:H7 on cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon was monitored at temperatures of 4 to 25°C. The Ratkowsky (or square-root model) was used to describe Salmonella growth on cantaloupe as a function of storage temperature. Our results show that the levels of Salmonella on fresh-cut cantaloupe with an initial load of 3 log CFU/g can reach over 7 log CFU/g at 25°C within 24 h. No growth was observed at 4°C. A linear correlation was observed between the square root of Salmonella growth rate and temperature, such that √growth rate = 0.026 × (T – 5.613), R 2 = 0.9779. The model was generally suitable for predicting the growth of both Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 on cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, for both new data and data from the published literature. When compared with existing models for growth of Salmonella, the new model predicts a theoretic minimum growth temperature similar to the ComBase Predictive Models and Pathogen Modeling Program models but lower than other food-specific models. The ComBase Prediction Models results are very similar to the model developed in this study. Our research confirms that Salmonella can grow quickly and reach high concentrations when cut cantaloupe is stored at ambient temperatures, without visual signs of spoilage. Our model provides a fast and cost-effective method to estimate the effects of storage temperature on fresh-cut melon safety and could also be used in subsequent quantitative microbial risk assessments.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-12-398

Affiliations: 1: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 65 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA 2: Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, 700 Experiment Station Road, Lake Alfred, Florida 33850, USA 3: Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616-8598, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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