ABSTRACT

In situ generation of chlorine dioxide to reduce microbial populations on produce surfaces has been shown to be effective on produce models. This study examined the treatment for decontamination of bacterial pathogens on whole cantaloupes and sprout seeds. Whole cantaloupes, mung beans, and alfalfa seeds were inoculated with Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, sprayed with or dipped in 0.4 to 1.6% sodium chlorite (NaClO2) solutions, dried, and treated with 6 mM hydrochloric acid (HCl; sequential treatment). Controls were samples treated with NaClO2 or HCl (individual treatment). The pathogen populations on samples before and after treatments were enumerated to determine the reductions of pathogen populations by the treatments. The methods of applying NaClO2 and HCl (dipping for 30 min or spraying 0.2 g on cantaloupe rind [2 by 2 cm]), NaClO2 concentrations of 0.4 to 1.6% for cantaloupes, and treatment times of 5, 15, and 30 min for sprout seeds were evaluated to identify treatment parameters. For cantaloupes treated with spraying with 1.6% NaClO2, the sequential treatment caused significantly (P < 0.05) higher reductions (6.2 to 7.7 log CFU/cm2) than the combined reductions (3.2 to 5.2 log CFU/cm2) by the individual treatments. For cantaloupes treated by dipping in 1.6% NaClO2 and by spraying with 0.4 and 0.8% NaClO2, the reductions caused by the sequential treatment were not significantly (P > 0.05) different from those by the individual treatments. For mung beans, sequential 15- and 30-min treatments caused significantly (P < 0.05) higher reductions of 4.3 to 5.0 and 4.7 to 6.7 log CFU/g, respectively, than the individual treatments. The sequential 15-min treatment also caused high reductions of 5.1 to 7.3 log CFU/g on alfalfa seeds. The treatments did not bleach the color of cantaloupes and did not affect the germination rates of mung beans and alfalfa seeds. This study identified 1.6% NaClO2 and 6 mM HCl for sequential spraying treatment for cantaloupes and for sequential dipping (15-min) treatment for mung beans and alfalfa seeds that may be used for decontamination of whole cantaloupes and sprout seeds.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sequential application of NaClO2 and HCl for surface decontamination was examined.

  • Treatment parameters were identified for cantaloupe, mungs bean, and alfalfa seed.

  • The effective concentrations were 1.6% NaClO2 and 6 mM HCl.

  • The method of applying the chemicals was sequential spraying for cantaloupe.

  • The application was sequential dipping for 15 min for mung bean and alfalfa seed.

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