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Keywords:

  • Listeria;
  • Clostridium;
  • Soil;
  • Compost;
  • Fresh produce;
  • Parsley

Abstract

The survival and transfer of Listeria innocua and Clostridium sporogenes, used as surrogates of the food borne pathogens Listeria monocytogenes and Clostridium botulinum, were quantitatively assessed under field conditions. In the soil, spores of C. sporogenes declined by less than 0.7 log cycles within 16 months and were detected on parsley leaves throughout the experiment. In contrast, L. innocua in the soil declined by 7 log cycles in 90 days and was detected on leaves in low numbers (>0.04 MPN g−1) during the first 30 days. Rates of decline in soil were similar in the laboratory at 20°C for two strains of L. innocua and L. monocytogenes; and in the field for L. innocua over two different years. L. innocua survived better in winter, indicating an important influence of temperature. The major cause of transfer of L. innocua from soil to parsley leaves was splashing due to rain and irrigation. As few as 1 CFU g−1Listeria in soil led to contamination of parsley leaves. Internalisation of Listeria through parsley roots was not observed. Under the conditions of soil and climate studied, a delay of 90 days between application of potentially contaminated fertilizer and harvest should be sufficient to eliminate L. monocytogenes.