Evaluating Risks and Mitigation Measures for Foodborne Pathogens on Harvest Bags

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Virginia Tech


Tree fruit growers need information on pathogen dynamics following harvest bags contamination to determine effective sanitation interventions for decontaminating these surfaces. Therefore, the objectives of this research were (i) to determine the survival of generic E. coli, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes on different harvest bag materials (ii) to quantify the transfer of generic E. coli, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes from different harvest bag materials to fresh unwaxed apples and (iii) to determine the efficacy of different sanitizers for decontaminating different harvest bag materials. For Obj. 1, harvest bag materials were inoculated with rifampicin-resistant (80ppm; R) E. coli (TVS353) or Salmonella strain cocktail or L. monocytogenes strain cocktail. All surfaces were air-dried and held at 22 °C and either 30 or 80% relative humidity for 90 d (E. coli), or at 22 °C and 55% relative humidity (RH) for 21 d (L. monocytogenes and Salmonella). For Obj. 2, harvest bag materials were inoculated with E. coli (TVS353) or Salmonella strain cocktail or L. monocytogenes strain cocktail and air dried as previously mentioned. For E. coli trials, bacterial transfer to unwaxed 'Red Delicious' apples was assessed for 2 inoculum dry times (1 or 4 h), 2 contact times (5 or 25 minutes), and 2 pressure scenarios (0.0 or 0.1kg/cm2). For Salmonella or L. monocytogenes trials, transfer was assessed for 1 inoculum dry time (1 h), and 1 contact time (5 minutes). For Obj. 3, coupons were inoculated with L. monocytogenes or Salmonella cocktails and were air-dried. Following inoculation, coupons were exposed to different sanitizer treatments: chlorine, peroxyacetic acid (PAA), isopropyl alcohol with quaternary ammonium compounds (IPAQuats), steam, and water. Regression models were fitted, and Tukey's post hoc test was performed at P<0.05. E. coli exhibited survival for extended durations at 30 % than at 80% RH. In addition, E. coli survived at higher concentrations on canvas surfaces than on cordura and nylon surfaces. Generally, E. coli survived for more than 21 d across all surfaces and exhibited a triphasic die-off pattern. Similarly, L. monocytogenes and Salmonella exhibited die-off in phases with an initial rapid die-off followed by more gradual die-off rates up to 21 d. Canvas materials also promoted better L. monocytogenes and Salmonella survival than cordura surfaces. Contact time did not significantly impact the transfer of E. coli from harvest bag surfaces to apples (P=0.55). However, pressure, inoculum dry time and material type significantly impacted the transfer of E. coli to 'Red Delicious' apples (P≤0.03). The transfer rates of Salmonella did not differ between canvas and cordura surfaces (P=0.46). However, cordura transferred L. monocytogenes at significantly higher rates than canvas surfaces (P<0.001). Of the sanitizer treatments that were used on L. monocytogenes or Salmonella inoculated surfaces, IPAQuats was the most effective achieving over 4.5 log CFU/coupon reduction on both canvas and cordura surfaces. Our studies demonstrated that bacteria could survive for over 21 d under different conditions and could transfer from contaminated harvest bag surfaces to apples underlining the importance of cleaning and sanitizing harvest bags with sanitizers like IPAQuats.



Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Harvest bags