Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 6, 2012
Publication Date: February 13, 2012
Citation: Ingram, D.T., Zhou, B., Shen, C., Yang, Y., Sharma, M., Nou, X., Millner, P.D., Luo, Y. 2012. Strategies for the reduction of human pathogens in tomatoes and leafy greens: A farm to fork systems approach. [abstract].
Tomatoes and leafy-greens are two produce commodities that are susceptible to foodborne pathogen contamination and subsequent association with foodborne illness. Outbreak investigations have associated water – through pre-harvest (irrigation) and post-harvest (cooling, wash-tank or rinse water) as potential vehicles for pathogen contamination of these commodities. In light of outbreaks frequently associated with water, our laboratories have successfully employed several approaches to mitigate foodborne outbreaks on two fronts: targeting the safety of both irrigation and processing water. We evaluated an inexpensive, rapid, in-line filtration system using a column of Zero Valent Iron (ZVI) to remove E. coli and Listeria spp. from pre-harvest irrigation water. Post-harvest investigations include the evaluation of new technologies and practices designed to enhance the efficacy of wash-tank and rinse-water typically used to remove potential pathogens and prevent cross-contamination. Investigations revealed operating parameters that affect the ability of foodborne pathogens to infiltrate tomatoes via stem scars, as well as a food processing aid (T-128) that improved the efficiency of chlorine as a disinfectant in post-harvest wash water. Investigations into current cold-storage retail display of fresh-cut produce reveal that this might also be critical food safety vulnerability. The 2009 FDA Food Code requires all packaged fresh-cut leafy-greens to be maintained under 41F, but incidents of product temperature abuse occur frequently. Our lab has shown that new technologies and operational practices are available to ensure compliance with the Food Code, as well as maintain the quality and safety and prolong the shelf-life of fresh-cut produce from farm to fork.