Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: January 13, 2005
Publication Date: August 1, 2005
Citation: Sapers, G.M. 2005. Washing and sanitizing treatments for fruits and vegetables. In: Sapers, G.M., Gorny, J.R., Yousef, A.E., editors. Microbiology of Fruits and Vegetables. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 375-400. Technical Abstract: Grower/shippers and processors depend on washing and sanitizing treatments to remove microbial contaminants that represent a food safety concern or cause spoilage. This chapter reviews the efficacy, advantages and disadvantages of conventional washing and sanitizing agents for fresh fruits and vegetables, including recently introduced alternatives to chlorine, and examines the regulatory status of interventions for decontamination of produce and equipment. The performance of equipment used to apply sanitizer treatments to produce is examined. The efficacy of cleaning and sanitizing treatments can be limited by the strength of microbial attachment to produce surfaces, inaccessibility of attachment sites, and biofilm formation. Typically, sanitizing treatments can achieve reductions in populations of native microflora on produce surfaces or of human pathogens on inoculated produce of 1-2 logs (90-99%). While such reductions can greatly reduce spoilage, they are insufficient to assure safety in the event of contamination with human pathogens. The potential of new antimicrobial treatments for produce decontamination to achieve greater reductions is examined; such treatments may provide additional gains in efficacy over current technologies. Also, the problem of decontaminating fresh fruits and vegetables in food service situations or in the home is discussed. Safe and uniform use of sanitizers may be problematic without the controls available for large-scale produce packing and processing applications. Microbial reduction benefits claimed by many purveyors of home-use formulations, especially those marketed via the internet, are unsubstantiated. While experimental sanitizing treatments, if found to be technically and economically feasible, may improve microbiological safety, attainment of a high level of safety such as that afforded by a 5-log (99.999%) reduction in pathogen populations is unrealistic. Use of other technologies such as surface pasteurization, vapor-phase treatments or irradiation may be required to reach this level of safety.