Produce is an important source of nutrients and phytochemicals, which is important in a healthy diet. However, perishable fresh produce has caused recent outbreaks of foodborne diseases. High level of nutrients and water activity, direct contact with soil, and lack of thermal procedures during primary processing make fresh produce a potential food safety hazard. Fruits and vegetables with rough surfaces can harbor microorganisms and support their multiplication, increasing the risk of this hazard. This study evaluated the effects of extreme thermal processes combined with acetic acid on natural microflora reduction on cantaloupe melons. Melons from a local supermarket were assigned into five treatment groups: control, water at 25°C, water at 95°C, 5% acetic acid at 25°C, and 5% acetic acid at 95°C. Four skin samples were obtained from each melon, separately stomached for 2 min with 0.1% peptone water, and serially diluted. Aerobic plate counts (APC) of dilutions were determined. Statistical analysis (least significant difference–based analysis of variance) showed that there were no significant (P > 0.05) differences in APC among control, water at 25°C, and 5% acetic acid at 25°C. Thermal treatments with water at 95°C, and 5% acetic acid at 95°C, were both significantly (P < 0.05) more effective in APC reduction than were nonthermal treatments, but were not significantly different from each other. Results indicated that a thermal water immersion intervention in primary processing of fresh melons can result in a 3-log reduction of natural microflora surface contamination, but 5% acetic acid will not significantly augment this reduction.

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