Effect of Alternative Household Sanitizing Formulations Including: Tea Tree Oil, Borax, and Vinegar, to Inactivate Foodborne Pathogens on Food Contact Surfaces
Zekert, Ashley Elizabeth
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Current trends indicate that American consumers are increasingly selecting products that they believe to be environmentally friendly or â natural.â In the kitchen, this trend has been expressed through greater desire for using alternative or â greenâ sanitizers instead of bleach or other common chemical sanitizers. The purpose of this work was to evaluate the effectiveness of one suggested alternative, tea tree oil, as a food contact surface sanitizer. Three foodborne bacterial pathogens (Listeria monocytogenes N3-031 serotype 1/2a, Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain E009, and Salmonella Typhimurium ATCC 14028) were applied separately onto three different food contact surfaces (high density polyethylene, glass, and FormicaÂ® laminate). Tea tree oil (TTO), borax, and vinegar (5% acetic acid) were applied individually as well as in combination for a total of seven treatment solutions. In addition, household bleach (6.15% sodium hypochlorite), sterile reverse osmosis (RO) water, and no applied treatment were used as controls. Treatments were tested using an adaptation of the Environmental Protection Agency DIS/TSS-10 test method, whereby each contaminated surface was treated with 100 Âµl of test solution and held for 1 min followed by submersion in neutralizing buffer and microbiological plating. Samples (0.1 ml) were plated onto TSA and incubated at 35Â°C for 48 h prior to colony counting. Bleach reduced microbial populations significantly with greater than 5-log reduction reported for all surfaces (FormicaÂ® laminate, glass, and HDPE), against E. coli O157:H7, L. monocytogenes, and S. Typhimurium. TTO produced reductions between four and five logs for E. coli O157:H7, L. monocytogenes, and S. Typhimurium and was not statistically different from the vinegar treatment (P>0.05). All combination recipes, including the borax treatment, failed to produce reductions in microbial populations at levels considered to be appropriate for food contact surface sanitizers. Surface type did not play a significant role in the effectiveness of the treatment (P>0.05). Although TTO and vinegar did reduce pathogen populations on surfaces, reductions were not sufficient enough to be considered an equally effective alternative to household bleach.
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