For health reasons, people are consuming fresh-cut fruits with or without minimal processing and, thereby, exposing themselves to the risk of foodborne illness if such fruits are contaminated with bacterial pathogens. This study investigated survival and growth parameters of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and aerobic mesophilic bacteria transferred from cantaloupe rind surfaces to fresh-cut pieces during fresh-cut preparation. All human bacterial pathogens inoculated on cantaloupe rind surfaces averaged ~4.8 log CFU/cm2, and the populations transferred to fresh-cut pieces before washing treatments ranged from 3 to 3.5 log CFU/g for all pathogens. A nisin-based sanitizer developed in our laboratory and chlorinated water at 1,000 mg/liter were evaluated for effectiveness in minimizing transfer of bacterial populations from cantaloupe rind surface to fresh-cut pieces. Inoculated and uninoculated cantaloupes were washed for 5 min before fresh-cut preparation and storage of fresh-cut pieces at 5 and 10°C for 15 days and at 22°C for 24 h. In fresh-cut pieces from cantaloupe washed with chlorinated water, only Salmonella was found (0.9 log CFU/g), whereas E. coli O157:H7 and L. monocytogenes were positive only by enrichment. The nisin-based sanitizer prevented transfer of human bacteria from melon rind surfaces to fresh-cut pieces, and the populations in fresh-cut pieces were below detection even by enrichment. Storage temperature affected survival and the growth rate for each type of bacteria on fresh-cut cantaloupe. Specific growth rates of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes in fresh-cut pieces were similar, whereas the aerobic mesophilic bacteria grew 60 to 80% faster and had shorter lag phases.

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