The effects of reduced-O2 and elevated-CO2 modified atmospheres (MAs) and abusive temperatures on the growth and survival of E. coli O157:H7, yeast, and molds and on changes in the visual quality of fresh-cut apples were evaluated. High-CO2 and low-O2 (≥15% and <1%, respectively) atmospheres inhibited the growth of the pathogen on apple slices at 15 and 20°C. However, the population of the pathogen increased by 1 log cycle after 2 weeks of storage in air. The high-CO2 MA resulted in the inhibition of yeast and mold growth, less browning, and better visual quality than did air and ambient-CO2 atmospheres. The results of this study confirm that E. coli O157:H7 can grow on apple slices in air. These results also show that these organisms survive but are inhibited in MAs with high CO2 levels at abusive temperatures. An MA can increase the shelf life of fresh-cut apples by improving retention of visual quality and inhibiting yeast and molds. Thus, contamination of minimally processed apples with E. coli O157:H7 can be a safety issue for both air- and MA-packaged cut apples.
†Present address: Department of Food Engineering, Istanbul Technical University, 80626 Maslak, Istanbul, Turkey.