Quantification of survival and transfer of salmonella on fresh cucumbers during waxing

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Cucumbers found in retail markets are often waxed to improve visual appeal and retard moisture loss. This waxing may affect bacterial survival, and the waxing process may facilitate cross-contamination between cucumbers. This study assessed the survival of Salmonella on waxed and unwaxed cucumbers and the potential for Salmonella cross-contamination during the waxing process. Fresh waxed or unwaxed cucumbers were spot inoculated with a cocktail of Salmonella enterica strains. Three different wax coatings (mineral oil, vegetable oil, or petroleum wax) were manually applied to unwaxed cucumbers using polyethylene brushes. Salmonella transfer from inoculated cucumbers to the brush or to uninoculated cucumbers was quantified. Higher Salmonella concentrations were observed on waxed cucumbers during the first 3 days of storage, but the final concentration on unwaxed cucumbers was higher than on waxed cucumbers at the end of storage, regardless of storage temperature. The wax formulation did affect the survival of Salmonella inoculated directly into waxes, with a significant decline in Salmonella populations observed in vegetable-based wax coating but with populations unchanged over 7 days at 7 or 218C in mineral oil–based and petroleum-based waxes. Salmonella cells could transfer from inoculated unwaxed cucumbers to brushes used for waxing and then to uninoculated cucumbers during waxing. A significantly higher log percentage of transfer to brushes was observed when cucumbers were waxed with vegetable oil (0.71 log percent, P ¼ 0.00441) than with mineral oil (0.06 log percent) or petroleum (0.05 log percent). Transfer to uninoculated cucumbers via brushes was also quantified (0.18 to 0.35 log percent transfer). Salmonella remaining on contaminated cucumbers after waxing could be detected for up to 7 days, and Salmonella survived better on cucumbers treated with a petroleum-based wax. These findings should be useful in managing the risk of Salmonella contamination in cucumbers during postharvest handling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-462
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


  • Bacterial survival
  • Bacterial transfer
  • Cross-contamination
  • Cucumber waxing
  • Risk assessment
  • Salmonella


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