Contaminated vegetable seeds have been identified as a potential source of foodborne bacterial pathogens.  This study was undertaken to observe the behavior of Salmonella and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) on vegetable seeds, contaminated by direct contact with artificially inoculated soil, during germination.  Sterile sandy soil inoculated with lyophilized cells of four individual strains of Salmonella or EHEC (three O157:H7 and one O104:H4 strain[s]) was mixed with sanitized seeds (2 g) of alfalfa, fenugreek, lettuce and tomato at 20 o C for 1 h.  The contaminated seeds were germinated on 1% water agar at 25 o C for 9 days in the dark.  Populations of Salmonella and EHEC on various tissues (seed coat, root, cotyledon and stem, etc .) of sprouts/seedlings were determined every other day over the germination period.  Overall, 70.4% and 72.4% of collected tissue samples (n = 544) tested positive for Salmonella and EHEC, respectively.  In general, the mean populations of Salmonella and EHEC on sprout/seedling tissues increased as the prolongation of germination time.  Seed coats had the highest bacterial counts (4.00-4.06 log CFU/0.01 g), followed by the root (3.36-3.38 log CFU/0.01 g), cotyledon (3.13-3.38 log CFU/0.01 g) and stem tissues (2.67-2.84 log CFU/0.01 g).  On average, tissue section of fenugreek sprouts and lettuce seedlings had significantly higher ( P < 0.05) numbers of Salmonella and EHEC cells than that of alfalfa sprouts and tomato seedlings.   Data suggests that the growth and dissemination of Salmonella and EHEC cells on alfalfa, fenugreek, lettuce and tomato sprout/seedling tissues are influenced by the type of vegetable seeds and sprout/seedling tissues involved.  The study provides useful information on the fate of two important foodborne bacterial pathogens on selected vegetable seeds, contaminated by direct contact with inoculated soil, during the germination process.

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