Fresh produce and microbial contamination: persistence during the shelf life and efficacy of domestic washing methods

Elisabetta Delibato, Ida Luzzi, Eleonora Pucci, Yolande T.R. Proroga, Federico Capuano, Dario De Medici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transmission of enteric pathogens by fresh produce depends on the survival of the bacteria organisms during the product shelf-life. The removal of any potentially hazardous microorganism from the vegetables is therefore dependent on the washing and sanitizing techniques employed by individual households. For this purpose, in this work we investigated the persistence of enteric bacteria, using as model Salmonella enterica serovar Napoli (S. Napoli) and Yersinia enterocolitica, in vegetables stored at refrigeration temperature (4 °C). The efficiency of tap water and different chlorine solutions for cleaning vegetables experimentally contaminated with Y. enterocolitica were tested. The results showed that in lettuce spiked with different concentrations of S. Napoli and Y. enterocolitica, both microorganisms were still detected after seven days of storage at 4 °C. Lettuce contaminated with low concentrations of Y. enterocolitica was not decontaminated by washing with tap water or with water added with 60 ppm of chlorine. The presence of Y. enterocolitica in lettuce was reduced of about 1-2 logs after washing with water added with 220 ppm of chlorine. The addition of low concentration of chlorine in post harvest washing processes represents a useful tool to reduce the contamination of the vegetables, with consequent reduction of the risks. However, since complete decontamination was not achieved, foodborne infections linked to fresh produce can still be possible, although contamination is avoided during primary production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-363
Number of pages6
JournalAnnali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanita
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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