A new technique can make it safer to eat tomatoes

FDA-approved food additives are successful in regulating pre-harvest tomato bacteria.

They always focus on post-harvest washing to eliminate some foodborne pathogens as vegetable farmers harvest crops, but a recent study by the University of Georgia shows potential to minimize these pathogens — as well as reduce labor costs — by applying sanitizers to produce when they are still in the fields.

Salmonella, Shiga-producing toxin E. The main sources of foodborne infections and environmental health issues in the U.S. are coli and Listeria monocytogenes. In recent years, tomato-associated outbreaks of Salmonella recorded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have risen in frequency and magnitude and fresh produce accounted for 21% of E. The CDC documented outbreaks of coli over a 20-year period.

Researchers originally researched the usage of a non-chlorine-based sanitizer manufactured from two U.S.-approved food additives. Health and Medication Administration as a postharvest cleaning solution — levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate. However, at the recommendation of the study’s producer — Bill Brim of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia — they planned the study using a pre-harvest spray solution, said Tong Zhao, an associate research scientist with the UGA Griffin Campus Food Safety Center.

Although chlorine-based disinfectants, including chlorine gas, sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite and chlorine dioxide, are widely used by manufacturers to handle post-harvest processing, the application of bactericides to pre-harvest is not a popular practice, Zhao stated.

Built on previous levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate trials, which have demonstrated that the mixture greatly decreases both Salmonella and E. Zhao hoped to show the combination ‘s usefulness in minimizing foodborne pathogens on tomato plants infected with Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli on Romaine lettuce without adversely impacting lettuce efficiency. Monocytogenes coli and Listeria.

In field experiments, the overall bacterial community on the tomato surface was substantially decreased by spray treatment, determining that this pre-harvest procedure is a feasible, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solution to the prevention and elimination of foodborne pathogens. The research was recently published in Food Regulation, a journal.

“This chemical mixture was never used for pre-harvest care,” said Zhao, who tested the mixture as a post-harvest wash 10 years ago as an alternative to chlorine care. “Free chlorine is quickly neutralized by organic materials, which is a major problem when you use it to decrease pathogens.”

Tomato plants have been sprayed all over with a solvent comprising five strains of E in both laboratory and field experiments. Coli, five Salmonella strains and five Listeria strains that have been explicitly cultivated for laboratory research.

Tomato plants were divided into three similar classes and then sprayed with the bacteria solution in order to assess the potency of the chemicals in the laboratory as a prevention and as a cure. The first group was handled as a favorable control of acidified chlorine, the second as a research group with a medication solution comprising levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate, and the third was classified as a negative control only with tap water.

The positive and negative control groups were handled the same way for the three plots used for farm application monitoring, and the industrial formula — Fit-L — was diluted according to the manufacturer ‘s definition and used as the treatment method. Two concentrations of the treatment solution were checked for protection on tomato seedlings in the greenhouse prior to treatment trials on the plant.

Study findings found that the application, used either as a preventive or as a remedy, greatly decreased the inoculated Shiga toxin-producing E populations. Salmonella, coli and L. On tomato plants, monocytogenes.

Zhao said, “I have to express gratitude to the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association for supporting this and other study that is helpful to the state’s agricultural producers.”

Pre-harvest treatment with levulinic acid and sodium dodecyl sulfate to eliminate bacteria, in addition to being effective and inexpensive, even reduces labor costs for farmers who require staff to do post-harvest washing and drying of produce before processing.

“Using machinery that most farms are already using, this approach will easily be implemented,” Zhao said. “Considering the amount of labor necessary for post-harvest washing, preharvest treatment is very successful, safe and simple.”

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