ABSTRACT

Salmonella enterica associated with consumption of cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) has led to foodborne outbreaks in the United States. Whole and fresh-cut cucumbers are susceptible to S. enterica contamination during growing, harvesting, and postharvest handling. The application of lytic bacteriophages specific for S. enterica was evaluated to reduce Salmonella populations on cucumbers. Unwaxed cucumbers (‘Lisboa’ variety, or mini-cucumbers purchased at retail) were inoculated with Salmonella Newport (5 log CFU per cucumber) and were sprayed with 3.2 mL of phosphate-buffered saline (control) or 10 log PFU/ml of SalmoFresh, a Salmonella-specific bacteriophage preparation (phage), to deliver 4.76 × 107 PFU/cm2. Cucumbers were stored at 10 or 22°C for 7 days. Inoculated mini-cucumbers were sliced with a sterile knife to investigate Salmonella transfer to mesocarp, and cut pieces were stored at 4°C for 2 days. Populations (log CFU per cucumber) of Salmonella Newport on phage-treated whole cucumbers were significantly (P < 0.05) smaller (2.44 ± 0.94) than on control-treated cucumbers (4.27 ± 0.37) on day 0. Populations on phage-treated cucumbers stored at 10°C were 1.72 ± 0.77 and 1.56 ± 0.46, which were significantly lower than those on control-treated cucumbers (3.20 ± 0.48 and 2.33 ± 0.25) on days 1 and 4, respectively. Between days 0 and 1, populations on control-treated cucumbers stored at 10 and 22°C declined by 1.07 and 2.47 log CFU per cucumber, respectively. At 22°C, Salmonella Newport populations declined by 2.37 log CFU per cucumber between days 0 and 1. Phage application to whole cucumbers before slicing did not reduce the transfer of Salmonella Newport to fresh-cut slices. Lytic phage application may be a potential intervention to reduce Salmonella populations on whole cucumbers.

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