Co-authored with Erdogan Ceylan

More than ever, consumers are becoming aware and following food safety recalls in the produce industry. Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with leafy greens have been particularly newsworthy. A popular meme, “right now chocolate is good for you and romaine lettuce can kill you,” is circulating around the internet. But there is some sad underlying truth to this statement. In 2018, there were two high-profile outbreaks in romaine lettuce. The first, starting in March and lasting through June, effected 210 people, 96 of which were hospitalized, 27 who developed uremic syndrome (which is a type of kidney failure) and 5 of which who died. The second starting in October, effected 62 people, 25 which were hospitalized and two who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. Internet memes aside, pathogenic E. coli is incredibly dangerous and at the forefront of consumer’s minds. This burden on public health is largely preventable.

Produce can be contaminated on the farm, during processing and also during handling.  Pathogens can survive and grow during storage, especially under abused conditions.  

The produce industry is invested in keeping consumers safe. Producers are required to implement preventative control measures against foodborne pathogens. Using an antimicrobial wash can reduce bacterial load, inactivate pathogens and extend the shelf life of produce. The antimicrobials can also reduce bacterial load and inactivate pathogens in the wash water. Cross contamination can be a risk not only from product-to-product contamination but from the potentially contaminated wash water.

The FDA recommends and authorizes many different types of antimicrobials including but not limited to, sodium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, hypochlorous acid, peracetic acid or calcium hypochlorite. Many parameters can affect the efficacy of a wash system, including pH, water temperature, treatment time, organic load, throughput, cut size and antimicrobial concentration. The efficacy of the wash protocol needs to be validated against pathogens.

Merieux NutriSciences’ Food Science Center in Crete, IL has a dedicated team of expert scientists that can review the parameters of your wash system and products in order to design a custom study to validate the efficacy of your produce wash process.   Studies can be conducted in the lab with pathogens or at your facility with surrogate organisms.

Contact us for a collaborative approach to promoting consumer public safety and peace of mind.

Meet the Authors

Katherine Burke
Business Development Manager, Food Science Center, Mérieux NutriSciences

Katherine has been with Mérieux NutriSciences for over 6 years and is currently the Business Development Manager for the Food Science Center. She works closely with food safety professionals assisting with a variety of specialized molecular testing programs and contract research studies including shelf life, process validation, method validation and challenge studies.

Dr. Erdogan Ceylan
Fellow, Mérieux NutriSciences

Dr. Ceylan works as Director of Research for Mérieux NutriSciences. He specializes in thermal and non-thermal process validation studies, challenge studies, shelf life studies, detection, identification, and control of foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms in raw ingredients and finished products. Dr. Ceylan consults with the food industry on FSMA, HACCP, sanitation, microbiological risk assessment, prevention strategies, process control and regulatory requirements. Dr. Ceylan serves as the Responsible Official for the Mérieux NutriSciences select agents and toxins program under the Federal Select Agent Program for Clostridium botulinum research studies. A renowned scientist with nearly 20 years of experience, Dr. Ceylan has given presentations at international meetings including the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) annual meeting, International Food Technologists (IFT) annual meeting, Reciprocal Meat Conference (RMC), International Dairy Food Association (IDFA) Conference, National Confectioners Association (NCA)/ International Association of Confectioners (PMCA) Quality Management Workshop, North Dakota State University Feed Safety Short Course and Pet Food Forum. He is a member of IAFP and IFT. Dr. Ceylan authors the Yersinia chapter in the Compendium of Methods for the Microbiological Examination of Foods (5th edition) and has published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and trade magazines.

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