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Keywords:

  • E. coli O157:H7;
  • gamma irradiation;
  • integrated treatment;
  • Salmonella;
  • tomato;
  • UV light

Abstract

The study evaluated the efficacy of integrated ultraviolet-C light (UVC) and low-dose gamma irradiation treatments to inactivate mixed strains of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica on inoculated whole grape tomatoes. A mixed bacterial cocktail composed of a 3 strain mixture of E. coli O157:H7 (C9490, E02128, and F00475) and a 3 serotype mixture of S. enterica (S. Montevideo G4639, S. Newport H1275, and S. Stanley H0558) was used based on their association with produce-related outbreaks. Spot inoculation (50 to 100 μmL) on tomato surfaces was performed to achieve a population of appropriately 107–8 CFU/tomato. Inoculated tomatoes were subjected to UVC (253.7 nm) dose of 0.6 kJ/m2 followed by 4 different low doses of gamma irradiations (0.1 kGy, 0.25 kGy, 0.5 kGy, 0.75 kGy). The fate of background microflora (mesophilic aerobic) including mold and yeast counts were also determined during storage at 5 °C over 21 d. Integrated treatment significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the population of target pathogens. Results indicate about 3.4 ± 0.3 and 3.0 ± 0.1 log CFU reduction of E. coli O157:H7 and S. enterica, respectively, per tomato with UVC (0.6 kJ/m2) and 0.25 kGy irradiation. More than a 4 log and higher reduction (>5 log) per fruit was accomplished by combined UVC treatment with 0.5 kGy and 0.75 kGy irradiation, respectively, for all tested pathogens. Furthermore, the combined treatment significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the native microflora compared to the control during storage. The data suggest efficacious treatment strategy for produce indicating 5 or higher log reduction which is consistent with the recommendations of the Natl. Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.