Fresh cucumbers have been linked to multistate outbreaks of salmonellosis in the United States. Cutting, slicing, shredding, or peeling can transfer pathogens from the surface of fresh produce to edible flesh portion through tools or hands. Various nonpathogenic surrogates have been used in various intervention studies to predict Salmonella behavior. Little is known about the degree to which pathogens or their surrogates can transfer from the surface of fresh produce to edible flesh during peeling. This study quantifies the transfer of Salmonella Newport from the surface of cucumber to the edible flesh portion or peeler during peeling and evaluates Enterobacter aerogenes B199A as well as native mesophilic microbiota as surrogates for Salmonella transfer. Cucumbers were dip-inoculated with Salmonella Newport or E. aerogenes at 7 log CFU/cucumber. Half of each inoculated cucumber was hand peeled using a sterilized peeler resulting in four separate samples (unpeeled half, edible flesh half, removed peel, used peeler) to quantify bacterial transfer. Most (>95%) of inoculated E. aerogenes, Salmonella or native mesophilic microbiota generally remained associated with the peel during peeling. E. aerogenes transfer to cucumber flesh ranged from 0.02 to 12.9%, while transfer to the peeler ranged from 0.01 to 6.6%. Salmonella to cucumber flesh ranged from 0 to 0.6%, while transfer to the peeler ranged from 0 to 2.2%. Native microflora transfer to cucumber flesh ranged from 0.02 to 3.7%, while transfer to the peeler ranged from 0.04 to 3.7%. The log percent transfer of E. aerogenes at 24 h as well as several shorter times was not significantly different (P > 0.05) from that of Salmonella transferred to the edible flesh portion or peeler during peeling. E. aerogenes B199A may be a useful surrogate for Salmonella in cross-contamination studies and should be useful in guiding future risk management efforts to reduce pathogen risk associated with fresh cucumbers.

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