Monitoring and maintenance of water quality in dump tanks or flume systems is crucial to prevent pathogen cross-contamination during postharvest washing of tomatoes, but there is limited information on how organic matter influences sanitizer efficacy in the water. The main objective of this study was to monitor water quality in flume tanks and evaluate the efficacy of postharvest washing of tomatoes in commercial packinghouses. Flume tank water samples (n=3) were collected on an hourly basis from three packinghouses in Florida and analyzed for pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), free chlorine, chemical oxygen demand (COD), oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), and turbidity. Additionally, three flume water samples were collected and tested for total aerobic plate count (APC), total coliforms (TC), and generic E. coli (EC). Fresh tomatoes (n=3), both before and after washing, were collected and analyzed for the same bacterial counts. Turbidity, COD, and TDS levels in flume water increased over time in all packinghouses. Correlations observed include COD and turbidity (r = 0.631), turbidity and TDS (r = 0.810), and ORP and chlorine (r = 0.660). APC for water samples had an average range of 0.0 to 4.7 log CFU/mL and TC average range of 0.0 to 4.7 log CFU/mL. All water samples were negative for generic E. coli . The average APC for pre-and post-flume tomatoes from the three packinghouses was 6.0 log CFU/tomato and ranged from 2.2 to 7.4 log CFU/tomato. The average TC count was <1.5 and 7.0 log CFU/tomato for pre-and post-wash tomatoes, respectively. There was no significant effect ( P >0.05) of postharvest washing on the microbiological qualities of tomatoes. Water quality in flume tanks deteriorated over time in all packinghouses during a typical operational day of 4-8 h.
Determining bacterial load and water quality of tomato flume tanks in Florida packinghouses
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Bruna Bertoldi, Cameron A Bardsley, Christopher A Baker, Christopher R Pabst, Alan Gutierrez, Jaysankar De, Yaguang Luo, Keith R. Schneider; Determining bacterial load and water quality of tomato flume tanks in Florida packinghouses. J Food Prot 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.4315/JFP-21-100
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