Internalization of bacterial pathogens in tomatoes and their control by selected chemicals.J Food Prot. 2004 Jul; 67(7):1353-8.JF
The effect of different washing or sanitizing agents was compared for preventing or reducing surface and internal contamination of tomatoes by Salmonella Typhimurium and Escherichia coli O157:H7. The tomatoes were inoculated by dipping them in a bacterial suspension containing approximately 6.0 log CFU/ml of each pathogen and then rinsing them with tap water, hypochlorite solution (250 mg/liter), or lactic acid solution (2%, wt/vol). All treatments were applied by dipping or spraying, and solutions were applied at 5, 25, 35, and 55 degrees C. With the exception of the lactic acid dip at 5 degrees C, all treatments reduced both pathogens on the surfaces of the tomatoes by at least 2.9 cycles. No significantly different results were obtained (P > 0.05) with the dipping and spraying techniques. For internalized pathogens, the mean counts for tomatoes treated with water alone or with chlorine ranged from 0.8 to 2.1 log CFU/g. In contrast, after lactic acid spray treatment, all core samples of tomatoes tested negative for Salmonella Typhimurium and, except for one sample with a low but detectable count, all samples tested negative for E. coli O157:H7 with a plate count method. When the absence of pathogens was verified by an enrichment method, Salmonella was not recovered from any samples, whereas two of four samples tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 even though the counts were negative. Few cells of internalized pathogens were able to survive in the center of the tomato during storage at room temperature (25 to 28 degrees C). The average superficial pH of tomatoes treated with tap water, chlorine, or lactic acid was 4.9 to 5.2, 4.1 to 4.3, and 2.5, respectively (P < 0.05), whereas no differences were observed in the internal pH (3.6 to 3.7) of the tomatoes treated with different sanitizers. The general practice in the tomato industry is to wash the tomatoes in chlorinated water. However, chlorine is rapidly degraded by organic matter usually present in produce. Therefore, lactic acid sprays may be a more effective alternative for decontaminating tomato surfaces. The use of warm (55 degrees C) sprays could reduce pathogen internalization during washing.