Bugs survive during storage: Prevent E. coli

The survival of Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on strawberries, basil leaves, and other leafy greens (spinach leaves, lamb and butterhead lettuce leaves, baby leaves, and fresh-cut iceberg lettuce) was assessed at cold (<7°C) and ambient temperatures. All commodities were spot inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella to obtain an initial inoculum of 5 to 6 log and 4 to 5 log CFU/g for strawberries and leafy greens, respectively. Samples were air packed. Strawberries were stored at 4, 10, 15, and 22°C and basil leaves and other leafy greens at 7, 15, and 22°C for up to 7 days (or less if spoiled before).

basil.salmonellaBoth Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 showed a gradual decrease in numbers if inoculated on strawberries, with a similar reduction observed at 4, 10, and 15°C (2 to 3 log after 5 days). However, at 15°C (and 10°C for E. coli O157:H7), the survival experiment stopped before day 7, as die-off of both pathogens below the lower limit of detection was achieved or spoilage occurred.

At 22°C, strawberries were moldy after 2 or 4 days. At that time, a 1- to 2-log reduction of both pathogens had occurred. A restricted die-off (on average 1.0 log) and increase (on average , 0.5 log) of both pathogens on basil leaves occurred after 7 days of storage at 7 and 22°C, respectively. On leafy greens, a comparable decrease as on basil was observed after 3 days at 7°C. At 22°C, both pathogens increased to higher numbers on fresh-cut iceberg and butterhead lettuce leaves (on average 1.0 log), probably due to the presence of exudates. However, by using spot inoculation, the increase was rather limited, probably due to minimized contact between the inoculum and cell exudates.

Avoiding contamination, in particular, at cultivation (and harvest or postharvest) is important, as both pathogens survive during storage, and strawberries, basil, and other leafy green leaves are consumed without inactivation treatment.

Survival of Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 on strawberries, basil, and other leafy greens during storage

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 4, April 2015, pp. 636-858, pp. 652-660(9)

Delbeke, Stefanie; Ceuppens, Siele; Jacxsens, Liesbeth; Uyttendaele, Mieke