Listeriosis, a foodborne illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes, has relatively low incidence, but a substantial mortality rate, particularly in immunocompromised populations. Because of the known risk of L. monocytogenes and other pathogens in produce, immunocompromised individuals are often placed on neutropenic diets that exclude fresh produce. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate several kitchen-scale treatments as potential interventions to reduce L. monocytogenes in prepared produce. Cucumbers, apples, and celery were dip inoculated with a three-strain cocktail of L. monocytogenes and dried for 24 h. Inoculated products were subjected to the following treatments as applicable: commercial sanitizer soak (90 s, with agitation), tap water rinse (15 s), tap water soak (90 s, with agitation), surface blanching (25 s), tap water rinse (15 s) followed by peeling, and surface blanching (25 s) followed by peeling. In addition, inoculum uptake in celery and the impact of two types of peelers (mechanical crank and manual) were assessed. Treated samples were plated on differential media and incubated for 48 h at 37°C. L. monocytogenes populations were then enumerated and compared with the untreated control (in log CFUs per gram). All treatments lacked efficacy for celery, with reductions significantly less (P < 0.05) than in other products, likely because of inoculum internalization. The sanitizer soak, tap water rinse, and tap water soak did not differ in efficacy (P > 0.05), which was low for cucumbers (<1.5 log CFU/g), apples (<1.3 log CFU/g), and celery (<0.7 log CFU/g). The two types of apple peelers did not differ in efficacy (P > 0.05). Surface blanching and surface blanching followed by peeling were the most effective treatments for both cucumbers and apples (P < 0.05), with average reductions of 4.2 to 5.1 and 3.5 to 5.9 log CFU/g, respectively.
Cut celery readily internalized inoculum.
Sanitizer soak was not more effective than water for L. monocytogenes removal.
Tap water rinses and soaks produced minimal L. monocytogenes reductions.
Surface blanching effectively reduced L. monocytogenes.
Surface blanching followed by peeling effectively reduced L. monocytogenes.