Jump to Main Content
Evaluation of post-contamination survival and persistence of applied attenuated E. coli O157:H7 and naturally-contaminating E. coli O157:H7 on spinach under field conditions and following postharvest handling
- Gutiérrez-Rodríguez, Eduardo, Gundersen, Amy, Sbodio, Adrian, Koike, Steven, Suslow, Trevor V.
- Food microbiology 2019 v.77 pp. 173-184
- Escherichia coli O157, Weibull statistics, analytical kits, die-off, growing season, inoculum, pathogens, petioles, population density, postharvest treatment, protocols, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, spinach, washing, California
- This study determined the variability in population uniformity of an applied mixture of attenuated E. coli O157:H7 (attEcO157) on spinach leaves as impacted by sampling mass and detection technique over spatial and temporal conditions. Opportunistically, the survival and distribution of naturally contaminating pathogenic E. coli O157:H7 (EcO157), in a single packaged lot following commercial postharvest handling and washing, was also evaluated. From the main study outcomes, differences in the applied inoculum dose of 100-fold, resulted in indistinguishable population densities of approximately Log 1.1 CFU g−1 by 14 days post-inoculation (DPI). Composite leaf samples of 150 g and the inclusion of the spinach petiole resulted in the greatest numerical sensitivity of detection of attEcO157 when compared to 25 and 150 g samples without petioles (P < 0.05). Differences in population density and protected-site survival and potential leaf internalization were observed between growing seasons and locations in California (P < 0.05). A Double Weibull model best described and identified two distinct populations with different inactivation rates of the inoculated attEcO157. Linear die-off rates varied between 0.14 and 0.29 Log/Day irrespective of location. Detection of EcO157- stx1-negative and stx2-positive, resulting from a natural contamination event, was observed in 11 of 26 quarantined commercial units of washed spinach by applying the 150 g sample mass protocol. The capacity to detect EcO157 varied between commercial test kits and non-commercial qPCR. Our findings suggest the need for modifications to routine pathogen sampling protocols employed for lot acceptance of spinach and other leafy greens.