A series of studies was done for the purpose of developing a proposed standard method to evaluate point-of-use home sanitizers for fresh produce. Preliminary experiments were done to determine the survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes after inoculation onto the surface of ripe tomatoes and drying for up to 24 h at 22 ± 2°C. Within 2 h, the initial population (6.88 log10 CFU/tomato) of E. coli O157:H7 was reduced by approximately 3 log10, while reductions in similar initial populations of Salmonella and L. monocytogenes were approximately 1 and 0.6 log10 CFU/tomato, respectively, after 40 min and 3 h. A pilot study evaluated treatment with 200 ppm free chlorine and a prototype Fit produce wash (Fit) for their efficacy in killing a five-serotype mixture of Salmonella or L. monocytogenes spot inoculated on tomatoes using the proposed inoculation and recovery procedures. Inoculated tomatoes were sprayed with chlorinated water, Fit, or sterile distilled water (control) and hand rubbed for 30 s. Each tomato was then placed in a plastic bag and rinsed with 200 ml of sterile water by vigorously agitating for 30 s to simulate a procedure consumers might use for sanitizing and rinsing produce in a home setting. Each tomato was transferred to a second bag, and 20 ml of sterile 0.1% peptone was added; tomatoes were rubbed by hand for 40 s. Populations of Salmonella or L. monocytogenes in the rinse water and the 0.1% peptone wash solution were determined. Treatment with 200 ppm chlorine and Fit resulted in ≥3.07 and >6.83 log10 reductions, respectively, in Salmonella. Treatment with 200 ppm chlorine and Fit reduced the number of L. monocytogenes by ≥3.33 and ≥4.96 log10 CFU/tomato, respectively. The proposed standard method for testing the efficacy of point-of-use produce sanitizers needs to be evaluated for reproducibility of results through a larger scale series of experiments.

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