The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of slightly acidic electrolyzed (SAEO) water in killing or removing Escherichia coli O157:H7 on iceberg lettuce and tomatoes by washing and chilling treatment simulating protocols used in food service kitchens. Whole lettuce leaves and tomatoes were spot-inoculated with 100 μL of a mixture of 5 strains of E. coli O157:H7. Washing lettuce with SAEO water for 15 s reduced the pathogen by 1.4 to 1.6 log CFU/leaf, but the treatments did not completely inactivate the pathogen in the wash solution. Increasing the washing time to 30 s increased the reductions to 1.7 to 2.3 log CFU/leaf. Sequential washing in SAEO water for 15 s and then chilling in SAEO water for 15 min also increased the reductions to 2.0 to 2.4 log CFU/leaf, and no cell survived in chilling solution after treatment. Washing tomatoes with SAEO water for 8 s reduced E. coli O157:H7 by 5.4 to 6.3 log CFU/tomato. The reductions were increased to 6.6 to 7.6 log CFU/tomato by increasing the washing time to 15 s. Results suggested that application of SAEO water to wash and chill lettuce and tomatoes in food service kitchens could minimize cross-contamination and reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7 present on the produce.
Practical Application: SAEO water is equally or slightly better than acidic electrolyzed (AEO) water for inactivation of bacteria on lettuce and tomato surfaces. In addition, SAEO water may have the advantages over AEO water on its stability, no chlorine smell, and low corrosiveness. Therefore, SAEO water may have potential for produce wash to enhance food safety.
Journal of Food Science
Article first published online: 21 JUN 2011