Blueberries and bugs: Can UV light help?

Ultraviolet light (UV) has antimicrobial effects, but the shadowing effect has limited its application.

blueberriesIn this study, a novel setup using UV processing in agitated water was developed to inactivate Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on blueberries.

Blueberries were dip- or spot-inoculated with E. coli or Salmonella. Blueberries inoculated with E. coli were treated for 2 to 10 min with UV directly (dry UV) or immersed in agitated water during UV treatment (wet UV). E. coli was most easily killed on spot-inoculated blueberries with a 5.2-log reduction after 10-min wet UV treatment. Dip-inoculated blueberries were the most difficult to be decontaminated with only 1.6-log reduction after 10-min wet UV treatment.

Wet UV treatment generally showed higher efficacies than dry UV treatment, achieving an average of 1.4 log more reduction for spot-inoculated blueberries. For dip-inoculated blueberries, chlorine washing and UV treatments were less effective, achieving <2 log reductions of E. coli. Thus, the efficacy of combinations of wet UV with sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), levulinic acid, or chlorine was evaluated. Inoculated blueberries were UV-treated while being immersed in agitated water containing 100 ppm SDS, 0.5% levulinic acid or 10 ppm chlorine.

The 3 chemicals did not significantly enhance the wet UV treatment. Findings of this study suggest that UV treatment could be used as an alternative to chlorine washing for blueberries and potentially for other fresh produce.

Practical Application

A novel UV light system for decontamination of blueberries in water was developed and evaluated. Results demonstrated that the decontamination efficacy of this system was generally as effective as chlorine washing, indicating that it could potentially be used as an alternative to chlorine washing for blueberries and other fresh produce.

Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica on blueberries in water using ultraviolet light

Journal of Food Science, 80: M1532–M1537

Liu, C., Huang, Y. and Chen, H.