Improvements in methods for disinfecting fresh-cut cantaloupe could reduce spoilage losses and reduce the risk of food-borne illness from human pathogen contamination. The objective of this study was to investigate the feasibility of using hot-water treatment in combination with low-dose irradiation to reduce native microbial populations while maintaining the quality of fresh-cut cantaloupe. Whole cantaloupes were washed in tap water at 20 or 76°C for 3 min. Fresh-cut cantaloupe cubes, prepared from the washed fruit, were then packaged in clamshell containers, and half the samples were exposed to 0.5 kGy of gamma radiation. Native microflora populations and sensory qualities were evaluated during the subsequent 7 days of storage at 4°C. The hot-water surface pasteurization reduced the microflora population by 3.3 log on the surface of whole fruits, resulting in a lower microbial load on the fresh-cut cubes compared with cubes cut from fruit treated with cold water. Irradiation of cubes prepared from untreated fruit to an absorbed dose of 0.5 kGy achieved a low microbial load similar to that of cubes prepared from hot-water-treated fruit. The combination of the two treatments was able to further reduce the microflora population. During storage, the headspace atmosphere of the packages was not significantly influenced by any of the treatments. Color, titratable acidity, pH, ascorbic acid, firmness, and drip loss were not consistently affected by treatment with irradiation, hot water, or the combination of the two. Cubes prepared from hot-water-treated whole fruit had slightly lower soluble solids content. The combination of hot-water pasteurization of whole cantaloupe and low-dose irradiation of packaged fresh-cut melon can reduce the population of native microflora while maintaining the quality of this product.
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