Fresh produce shall be thoroughly washed at the retail level prior to serving to the consumer with potable water. Foodborne pathogens if present on a product may transfer to the wash water and cross-contaminate other products immersed in the water. Typically, an entire carton of lettuce (24 heads) is washed together increasing the likelihood of cross-contamination due to the close contact between each head. This study aimed to compare the effects of two wash batch volumes – “low” (8 heads) and “high” (24 heads) on the efficacy of two commercial water antimicrobials and cross-contamination. Red leaf lettuce was spot-inoculated (~5.0 log CFU/g) with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Listeria monocytogenes. In the first batch of washing, inoculated lettuce was washed with non-inoculated lettuce, followed by reuse of the water/antimicrobials twice washing only non-inoculated lettuce. Samples of inoculated and non-inoculated lettuce were collected to determine aerobic plate count (APC) as well as the populations of STEC and L. monocytogenes. Microbiological analysis of the wash water was also conducted. Wash volume (8 versus 24 lettuce heads) had limited effects on the antimicrobial activities of the interventions evaluated. Instead, high-volume wash increased the rate of cross-contamination between non-inoculated and inoculated lettuce, and cross-contamination of non-inoculated lettuce through wash water reuse. Retailers should consider volume of product processed per batch, reuse of wash water, and use of an appropriate water antimicrobial in consideration of mitigating potential product cross-contamination.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Retail washing
- Water antimicrobial