Sustainable Sanitation Technique for Postharvest Quality and Safety of Organic Fruits
CSANR Project 124
A robust infrastructure is integral to the quality, growth and sustainability of the organic agriculture industry, including requirements for product safety. The microbial safety of fresh produce is a common concern, highlighted by recent outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes. This project builds on our previous research investigating the potential of ultraviolet light to sanitize organic fruit. With current BIOAg program funding, we have evaluated the efficacy of ultraviolet-C light to inactivate the Penicillium expansum, an important spoilage microbe, and food borne pathogen E. coli O157:H7on organic fruit surfaces, including cherries, strawberries, red raspberries and apples. We found that the level of microbial inactivation depends on fruit surface morphology and the type of microorganism, with pathogenic bacteria E. coli being more UV-C resistant than blue mold. Our proposed project will continue these important UV-C investigations on organic fruits to include Listeria monocytogenes. This pathogen has been tied to recent outbreaks from fresh produce (e.g., cantaloupe, fresh cut apples, celery, and sprouts), for which there is a zero tolerance by the FDA. Listeria is problematic because of its environmental prevalence. It is difficult to inactivate and grows in refrigerated conditions, making it a high-risk organism. This high priority research fills the gap in the literature and also advances the BioAg program’s mission to promote sustainable practices and enhance the quality and safety of organic produce.