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Decontamination strategies for fresh-cut produce

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Purpose of review: This review focuses on the state-of-the-art of decontamination of fresh-cut vegetables by means of water, sodium hypochlorite, peroxyacetic acid, electrolysed oxidising water and chlorine dioxide.

Findings: Considerable research has been done on the ability of these decontamination agents to inactivate pathogens on fresh-cut produce. Although water may partly remove those pathogens in a mechanical way, the addition of a chemical sanitiser into the washing water is advisable to control the microbial load of the washing water and to a lesser extent of the fresh-cut produce. However, the effect of a decontamination step on the indigenous microbial load and on other quality attributes is less established. Furthermore, because of concerns of the formation of potentially harmful disinfection by-products as a consequence of the use of sodium hypochlorite, the fresh-cut industry is continuously looking for more sustainable alternatives such as peroxyacetic acid, electrolysed oxidising water and chlorine dioxide. The antimicrobial action, the advantages, disadvantages and limitations of the latter agents are considered in this review.

Directions for future research: Vegetables in general are also a rich source of essential nutritional components like vitamins and secondary plant metabolites. These phytochemicals exhibit a protective effect against age-related diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Chemical decontamination agents exert a relatively high oxidation capacity, by which degradation of the antioxidants is a real possibility. However, the effect of a decontamination step on this, more hidden, quality aspect is ignored in a majority of the studies. Furthermore, the possible formation of disinfection by-products such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids in fresh-cut produce as a result of decontamination also needs further study.
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Document Type: Research Article

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