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Bacteriological Quality of Vegetables from Organic and Conventional Production in Different Areas of Korea

Tango, Charles Nkufi, Choi, Na-Jung, Chung, Myung-Sub, Oh, Deog Hwan
Journal of food protection 2014 v.77 no.8 pp. 1411-1417
Bacillus cereus, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, coliform bacteria, detection limit, indicator species, leaves, microbiological quality, organic foods, organic production, pathogens, production technology, public health, risk, romaine lettuce, spinach, Korean Peninsula
Foods grown in organic production systems have been described as representing an increased risk to public health compared with foods from conventional production. Leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, and green sesame leaves) grown in organic and conventional systems were collected from various areas in Korea and examined using standard culture methods to compare the microbiological quality of the produce grown in the two agricultural systems. The 354 samples of these leafy vegetables were analyzed for levels of indicator bacteria (aerobic bacteria, coliforms, and Escherichia coli) and the prevalence of the pathogens Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, and Salmonella. Aerobic bacteria and coliforms were detected in all vegetable types, but nonpathogenic E. coli was below the limit of detection in all samples. B. cereus was the most prevalent pathogen, found on 7 (11.1%) of the 63 organic spinach samples. The prevalence of S. aureus was highest in organic sesame leaves; it was found on 5 (8.0%) of the 63 samples. The prevalence of L. monocytogenes was highest on organic romaine lettuce and spinach; it was found in 4 (6.4%) of 63 samples of each type of vegetable. E. coli O157:H7 found on only 1 (1.58%) of 55 conventional spinach samples. These results suggest that farming type at most only slightly affects the hygienic quality of leafy vegetables, and no effect was found for sample collection area. Salmonella was not isolated from any of the conventional or organic leafy vegetables. These results do not support the hypothesis that organic produce poses a substantially greater risk of pathogen contamination than does conventional produce.