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Transfer of Listeria innocua from contaminated compost and irrigation water to lettuce leaves

Oliveira, M., Usall, J., Viñas, I., Solsona, C., Abadias, M.
Food microbiology 2011 v.28 no.3 pp. 590-596
Escherichia coli O157, Listeria innocua, Salmonella, composts, food contamination, food pathogens, humidity, irrigation water, leaf lettuce, polluted soils, soil sampling, spring, surface water, temperature, water pollution
Many foodborne outbreaks of some pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella or Listeria have been associated with the consumption of contaminated vegetables. Contaminated manure and polluted irrigation water are probable vehicles for the pathogens. The aim of this study was to determine the potential transfer of Listeria innocua from soil fertilized with contaminated compost or irrigated with contaminated water to the edible parts of lettuce grown on these soils together with its survival in lettuce and in soil under field conditions during two different seasons. Moreover, its survival on lettuce sprinkled with contaminated irrigation water was evaluated. L. innocua survived in soil samples for 9 weeks at high concentrations, 10⁵ cfu gdw⁻¹ in fall and 10³ cfu gdw⁻¹ in spring. Pathogen survived better in fall, indicating an important influence of temperature and humidity. L. innocua population in lettuce leaves was very high on lettuce leaves after sprinkling, but decreased to undetectable levels at field conditions. There was also transfer of L. innocua from soil contaminated with compost or irrigated with contaminated water to lettuce leaves, mainly to the outer ones. Survival profiles of L. innocua on lettuce and soil samples contaminated either by application of contaminated compost or surface irrigation water was similar. Our results indicated that contaminated compost and contaminated irrigation water can play an important role in the presence of foodborne pathogens on vegetables.