Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/10/2017
Publication Date: 8/7/2017
Citation: Gurtler, J. 2017. Pathogen decontamination in crop soil: A review. Journal of Food Protection. 80:1461-1470.
Technical Abstract: The purpose of this review is to delineate means of decontaminating soil in the expectation that this information might be used to mitigate soil-associated risks of foodborne pathogens. The majority of the research in the published literature involves decontaminating soil of plant pathogens, harmful to fruit and vegetable production. Very little has been published regarding the inactivation of foodborne human pathogens in crop soil. Nevertheless, because decontamination techniques for plant pathogens might also be useful methods in eliminating foodborne pathogens, this review also includes inactivation of plant pathogens, with appropriate discussion and comparisons, in the hopes that these methods may one day be validated against foodborne pathogens. The major soil decontamination methods covered include chemical decontamination (chemigation), solarization, steaming, biofumigation, and amendment with biochar. Other innovative means of decontaminating soils from foodborne pathogens may one day be discovered and should be explored, provided that they are economically feasible in terms of cost for chemicals, equipment, and labor. Food microbiology/food safety researchers should reach out to soil scientists and plant pathologists to create links where they don’t exist and strengthen relationships, where they do exist, so as to take advantage of multidisciplinary skills. In time, agricultural output and the demand for fresh produce will increase. With advances in the sensitivity of pathogen testing and epidemiological tracebacks, the need to mitigate bacterial contamination of fresh produce pre-harvest will become paramount. Hence, soil decontamination technologies may become more economically feasible and practical in light of increasing the food safety of fresh produce.