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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory » Research » Research Project #426241

Research Project: Pre-harvest and Post-harvest Decontamination Strategies for Eliminating Foodborne Pathogens on Cantaloupes

Location: Environmental Microbial & Food Safety Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32420-006-12-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2013
End Date: Aug 31, 2017

Although cantaloupes have been implicated in sporadic outbreaks of foodborne diseases in humans in the past, recently the fruit has been increasingly linked to large, multi-state outbreaks resulting in severe morbidity and mortality. These outbreaks highlight the emerging role of cantaloupes as a vehicle of foodborne pathogens, and justify the need for effective and practical decontamination procedures to prevent human infections. A variety of FDA-approved disinfectants, including quaternary ammonium compounds and hypochlorite have been evaluated for cantaloupe washing treatments, but are found to be ineffective in killing pathogen on cantaloupe surface. ARS is interested in pre-harvest and post-harvest sources of contaminations in fresh produce and intervention strategies to reduce foodborne pathogens at farm-to-fork level. Our goal of this project is to investigate the antimicrobial potential of Octenidine hydrochloride (OH) applied at pre- and post-harvest levels for controlling foodborne pathogens on cantaloupes. The Cooperator has extensive experience in antimicrobials for controlling pathogens in foods.

Octenidine hydrochloride (OH) is an antimicrobial agent commonly used in mouth rinse products in Europe. Our preliminary research has revealed that OH, at very low concentrations, is highly effective in rapidly killing L. monocytogenes on the cantaloupe surface. ARS will grow cantaloupe in high tunnel using good agricultural practices. Cantaloupe on vines will be surface inoculated with attenuated strains of Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella and then sprayed with different concentrations of OH. Treated cantaloupe will be harvested periodically for analyzing surviving populations of L. monocytogenes and Salmonella to determine antimicrobial efficacy of Octenidine hydrochloride. Effect of OH for inactivating L. monocytogenes and Salmonella (surrogate strains) applied as a spray on cantaloupes in the field. Cooperator will conduct research on 1) Efficacy of OH as a post-harvest washing treatment for reducing L. monocytogenes, Salmonella and Shiga-toxigenic E. coli on cantaloupes, 2) OH as an antimicrobial coating on cantaloupe surface to prevent pathogen contamination during storage, transport, and retail display, and 3) Role of OH in reducing biofilms of L. monocytogenes, Salmonella and Shiga-toxigenic E. coli on cantaloupes.