Impact of routine sanitation on the microbiomes in a fresh produce processing facility


Indigenous bacterial populations in fresh-cut produce processing facilities can have a profound effect on the survival and proliferation of inadvertently contaminating foodborne pathogens. In this study, environmental samples were collected from a variety of Zone 3 sites in a processing plant before and after daily routine sanitation. Viable mesophilic aerobic bacteria population was evaluated using both culturing method and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) after propidium monoazide treatment. Zone 3 surface microbiota were analyzed using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing with the Qiime2 bioinformatic pipeline. Over 8000 bacterial species across 4 major phyla were identified in Zone 3 microbiomes in the processing facility. Overall, effective bacterial reduction was observed at the sampling sites on the production floor, while sanitation effect on peripheral surfaces was less evident. Effective sanitation resulted in both quantitative and qualitive shifts of Zone 3 microbiota. Several species were highly abundant at multiple sample sites for both winter and summer samplings. Based on the spatial and temporal distribution of the most abundant species, a Zone 3 core microbiome in the processing facility was tentatively described to included Cupriavidus sp., Pseudomonas sp., Ralstonia sp., Arthrobacter psychrolactophdus, Pseudomonas vemnii, Stenotrophomonas sp., and an unknown species of the family Enterobacteriaceae.



Fresh-cut processor, Zone 3 surface, 16S rRNA gene copy number, Residential microbiota