Numerous outbreaks of salmonellosis by Salmonella Poona have been associated with the consumption of cantaloupe. Commercial washing processes for cantaloupe are limited in their ability to inactivate or remove this human pathogen. Our objective was to develop a commercial-scale surface pasteurization process to enhance the microbiological safety of cantaloupe. Populations of indigenous bacteria recovered from cantaloupes that were surface pasteurized at 96, 86, or 76°C for 2 to 3 min were significantly (P < 0.05) lower than those of the controls. Whole cantaloupes, surface inoculated with Salmonella Poona RM 2350 or Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 to a final cell concentration of ca. 5 log CFU/cm2 were stored at 4°C or room temperature (RT = 19 ± 1°C) for up to 72 h before processing. Treatments at 76°C for 2 to 3 min at 24 h postinoculation resulted in a reduction in excess of 5 log CFU/cm2 of Salmonella Poona and E. coli populations. Cantaloupes that were surface pasteurized and stored at 4°C for 21 days retained their firmness qualities and had no visible mold growth compared with the controls, which became soft and moldy. These results indicate that surface pasteurization will enhance the microbiological safety of cantaloupes and will extend the shelf life of this commodity as well. Storage of untreated inoculated cantaloupes at RT for 24 to 72 h postinoculation caused a significant (P < 0.05) increase in Salmonella Poona and E. coli populations compared with storage at 4°C. This indicates that cantaloupes should be refrigerated as soon as possible following harvest to suppress the growth of any possible contaminant on the rind.
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