Chemical sanitizers are routinely used during commercial flume washing of fresh-cut leafy greens to minimize cross-contamination from the water. This study assessed the efficacy of five commercial sanitizer treatments against Escherichia coli O157:H7 on iceberg lettuce, in wash water, and on equipment during simulated commercial production in a pilot-scale processing line. Iceberg lettuce (5.4 kg) was inoculated to contain 106 CFU/g of a four-strain cocktail of nontoxigenic, green fluorescent protein–labeled, ampicillin-resistant E. coli O157:H7 and processed after 1 h of draining at ~22°C. Lettuce was shredded using a commercial slicer, step-conveyed to a flume tank, washed for 90 s using six different treatments (water alone, 50 ppm of peroxyacetic acid, 50 ppm of mixed peracid, or 50 ppm of available chlorine either alone or acidified to pH 6.5 with citric acid [CA] or T-128), and then dried using a shaker table and centrifugal dryer. Various product (25-g) and water (50-ml) samples collected during processing along with equipment surface samples (100 cm2) from the flume tank, shaker table, and centrifugal dryer were homogenized in neutralizing buffer and plated on tryptic soy agar. During and after iceberg lettuce processing, none of the sanitizers were significantly more effective (P ≤ 0.05) than water alone at reducing E. coli O157:H7 populations on lettuce, with reductions ranging from 0.75 to 1.4 log CFU/g. Regardless of the sanitizer treatment used, the centrifugal dryer surfaces yielded E. coli O157:H7 populations of 3.49 to 4.98 log CFU/100 cm2. Chlorine, chlorine plus CA, and chlorine plus T-128 were generally more effective (P ≤ 0.05) than the other treatments, with reductions of 3.79, 5.47, and 5.37 log CFU/ml after 90 s of processing, respectively. This indicates that chlorine-based sanitizers will likely prevent wash water containing low organic loads from becoming a vehicle for cross-contamination.

This content is only available as a PDF.