ABSTRACT

Organic farming, including integrated crop–livestock farms and backyard farming, is gaining popularity in the United States, and products from these farms are commonly sold at farmers' markets, local stores, and roadside stalls. Because organic farms avoid using antibiotics and chemicals and because they use composted animal waste and nonprofessional harvesting and packaging methods, their products have an increased risk of cross-contamination with zoonotic pathogens. This study sets out to evaluate the efficiency of new postharvest disinfection processes using natural berry pomace extracts (BPEs) as a means to reduce the bacterial load found in two common leafy greens, spinach and celery. Spinach and celery were inoculated with a fixed bacterial load of Salmonella Typhimurium and later were soaked in BPE-supplemented water (wBPE) for increasing periods of time, at two different temperatures (24 and 4°C). The remaining live bacteria were quantified (log CFU per leaf), and numbers were compared with those on vegetables soaked in water alone. The relative expression of virulence genes (hilA1/C1/D1, invA1/C1/E1/F1) of wBPE-treated Salmonella Typhimurium was determined. For spinach, there was a significant (P < 0.05) reduction of Salmonella Typhimurium: 0.2 to 1.2 log CFU/mL and 0.5 to 5 log CFU/mL at 24 and 4°C, respectively. For celery, there was also a significant (P < 0.05) reduction of Salmonella Typhimurium at either 24 or 4°C. The changes in relative expression of virulence genes of Salmonella Typhimurium isolated from spinach and celery varied depending on the treatment conditions but showed a significant down-regulation of inv genes when treated at 24°C for 1,440 min (P < 0.05). After seven uses, the total polyphenolic compounds in wBPE remained at an effective concentration. This research suggests that soaking these vegetables with BPE-containing water at lower temperatures can still reduce the Salmonella Typhimurium load enough to minimize the risk of infection and alter virulence properties.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • wBPE is more efficient than water in eliminating Salmonella Typhimurium on produce.

  • wBPE is effective against wild-type and antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella Typhimurium.

  • Treatment reduced the relative expression of key Salmonella Typhimurium virulence genes.

  • wBPE can be reused multiple times and retain an effective concentration.

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