Overhead spray and brush roller (OSBR) treatment has been shown to remove significantly more Salmonella from tomato surfaces than flume treatment. However, OSBR is not widely used in tomato packing facilities compared with other commodities, and little is known about whether brushing causes microabrasions or other physical damage. Bacteria such as Pectobacterium, a soft rot–producing plant pathogen, and Salmonella, a human pathogen, show increased survival and growth on damaged tomato surfaces. This study evaluated whether OSBR treatment had a negative effect on the safety and/or marketability of tomatoes by examining its effect on Pectobacterium and Salmonella survival. Pectobacterium survival was evaluated on inoculated tomatoes that were OSBR treated with water or sanitizer (100 ppm of NaOCl, 5 ppm of ClO2, or 80 ppm of peracetic acid). A 15-s OSBR treatment using water or sanitizer achieved a 3-log CFU/ml reduction in Pectobacterium levels. Survival of Pectobacterium and Salmonella on OSBR-treated, untreated, and puncture-wounded tomatoes stored at 25°C and 75 to 85% relative humidity for 7 days was also assessed. Both Pectobacterium and Salmonella populations declined rapidly on OSBR-treated and untreated tomatoes, indicating that brushing does not damage tomato fruit to the extent of promoting better pathogen survival. In contrast, the survival of both organisms was significantly (P ≤ 0.05) higher on artificially wounded fruit. These results indicate that OSBR treatment does not increase the survival and growth of Pectobacterium or Salmonella on tomato surfaces and that it is effective in reducing Pectobacterium levels on the surface of inoculated tomatoes. These results suggest that, if used properly, an OSBR system in packinghouses is effective in removing surface contamination and does not affect tomato quality or safety.

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Author notes

Present address: Arnet Pharmaceutical, 2525 Davie Road, Building 330, Davie, FL 33317, USA.