Allyl isothiocyanate reduces Salmonella enterica Michigan and Listeria monocytogenes on the surface of whole cantaloupe (Cucumis melo L.)
Since 2006 there have been four Salmonella enterica and one Listeria monocytogenes foodborne outbreaks linked to whole cantaloupe fruit. No post-harvest intervention to reduce potential contamination on cantaloupe currently exists. The complex surface topography of netted cantaloupes aids bacterial attachment. This research evaluates the use of allyl isothiocyanate (AITC; a natural antimicrobial) to reduce populations of S. enterica Michigan and L. monocytogenes on the surface of cantaloupe. Fifty μl of S. Michigan or L. monocytogenes was inoculated onto whole ‗Athena‘ or ‗Hales Best Jumbo‘ (‗HBJ‘) cantaloupe fruit in 22 mm diameter circles and allowed to dry for 90 min. resulting in 6.60 log CFU/g. Cantaloupe received either AITC liquid or vapor, sterile deionized water, 200 ppm sodium hypochlorite per circle, or no treatment. All cantaloupes were stored in separate sealed glass desiccators for 1 or 24 h at 25°C or 35°C. To enumerate the bacteria following treatment, 22 mm sections of the rind were removed, homogenized and plated onto appropriate agar. Headspace analysis using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) quantified the concentration of each AITC vapor treatment. The texture quality of the pericarp tissue of whole cantaloupes was evaluated after 24 h treatments, followed by two weeks of storage at 4°C.
The concentration of vapor ranged from 3.4 to 19.6 μl AITC/L inside the desiccators. The liquid treatment reduced (P < 0.05) S. Michigan populations on ‗Athena‘ (3 log CFU/g) and L. monocytogenes on ‗HBJ‘ (2.6 log CFU/g). The longer exposure time to the AITC vapor (24 h versus 1 h) resulted in a greater reduction of both S. Michigan and L. monocytogenes on ‗Athena‘ and treatments at 35°C reduced microbial populations up to 4.5 times greater (P < 0.05). The highest vapor concentration reduced (P < 0.05) both pathogens at least 3.0 log CFU/g on ‗Athena‘ at 25°C. Generally, bacterial pathogens from the surface of ‗Athena‘ cantaloupe were reduced more than pathogens inoculated on the surface of ‗HBJ.‘ The application of AITC liquid or vapor is a natural alternative post-harvest treatment to 200 ppm free chlorine to reduce the level of bacterial contamination on cantaloupe surfaces for certified organic production.