Several outbreaks of salmonellosis associated with alfalfa sprouts have been documented in the United States since 1995. This study was undertaken to evaluate various chemical treatments for their effectiveness in killing Salmonella on alfalfa seeds. Immersing inoculated seeds in solutions containing 20,000 ppm free chlorine (Ca[OCl]2), 5% Na3PO4, 8% H2O2, 1% Ca(OH)2, 1% calcinated calcium, 5% lactic acid, or 5% citric acid for 10 min resulted in reductions of 2.0 to 3.2 log10 CFU/g. Treatment with 1,060 ppm Tsunami or Vortex, 1,200 ppm acidified NaClO2, or 5% acetic acid were less effective in reducing Salmonella populations. With the exceptions of 8% H2O2, 1% Ca(OH)2, and 1% calcinated calcium that reduced populations by 3.2, 2.8, and 2.9 log10 CFU/g, respectively, none of treatments reduced the number of Salmonella by more than 2.2 log10 CFU/g without significantly reducing the seed germination percentage. Treatment with 5% acetic, lactic, or citric acids substantially reduced the ability of seeds to germinate. Treatment with 1% Ca(OH)2 in combination with 1% Tween 80, a surfactant, enhanced inactivation by 1.3 log10 CFU/g compared to treatment with 1% Ca(OH)2 alone. Presoaking seeds in water, 0.1% EDTA, 1% Tween 80, or 1% Tween 80 plus 0.1% EDTA for 30 min before treatment with water, 2,000 ppm NaOCl, or 2% lactic acid had a minimal effect on reducing populations of Salmonella. Results indicate that, although several chemical treatments cause reductions in Salmonella populations of up to 3.2 log10 CFU/g initially on alfalfa seeds when analyzed by direct plating, no treatment eliminated the pathogen, as evidenced by detection in enriched samples.

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