Contamination of fresh produce with the foodborne pathogens Salmonella enterica, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 continues to be problematic, resulting in outbreaks of foodborne illness and costly corporate recalls. Various individual concentrations of citric or lactic acids (0.35 to 0.61%) or isopropyl citrate (0.16 to 0.54%) combined with two generally recognized as safe surfactants, 0.025% sodium-2-ethyl-hexyl sulfate and 0.025% sodium dodecylbenzene-sulfonate, were tested against these three pathogens in suspension and when inoculated and dried on the surface of grape tomatoes. The efficacy of sodium hypochlorite (NaClO; at 46 ppm) was also evaluated under dirty and clean conditions in suspension after addition of 0.3 or 0.03% bovine serum albumin, respectively, as an organic load. NaClO (46 ppm) inactivated the three pathogens in suspension by <0.76 log CFU/mL after 5 min in the presence of 0.3% bovine serum albumin, whereas 9 and 15 ppm of free chlorine inactivated the pathogens by 0.64 and 2.77 log CFU/mL, respectively, after 5 min under clean conditions. Isopropyl citrate (0.16% acidulant) plus 0.05% total concentration of the two surfactants inactivated the pathogens in suspension by up to 7.0 log CFU/mL within 2 min. When applied to grape tomatoes for 2 min, 0.54% isopropyl citrate plus 0.025% concentrations of each of the two surfactants reduced Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and L. monocytogenes by as much as ca. 5.47, 4.89, and 4.19 log CFU/g, respectively. These reductions were significantly greater than those achieved with 49 ppm of free chlorine. Citric acid and lactic acid plus surfactant washes achieved greater inactivation than water-only washes, reducing Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and L. monocytogenes on tomatoes by up to 4.90, 4.37, and 3.98 log CFU/g, respectively. These results suggest that these combinations of acidulants and surfactants may be an effective tool for preventing cross-contamination during the washing of grape tomatoes, for reducing pathogens on the fruit itself, and as an alternative to chlorine for washing fresh produce.
Acidulants and surfactants were used in combinations against three foodborne pathogens.
Acidulant (0.16%) plus surfactants (0.05%) inactivated pathogens in suspension by up to 7.0 log CFU/mL.
Acidulant plus surfactant inactivated pathogens on dip-inoculated grape tomatoes by 3.35 to 5.47 log CFU/g.