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Washing the whole head before cutting improves the safety of fresh-cut Iceberg lettuce

US researchers have compared the effectiveness of two washing methods in reducing the load of Escherichia coli O157: H7 on iceberg lettuce artificially inoculated.

The two methods differed in washing the whole-head lettuce before or after cutting:
1) Traditional Method (TM): cutting head before washing;
2) New Method (NM): washing head before cutting.

In both cases, the washing was performed with one of the following treatments:
1) Water;
2) Chlorinated water;
3) Peroxyacetic acid in water;
4) Chlorinated water + ultrasound;
5) Peroxyacetic acid in water + ultrasound.

The experiment was conducted in a pilot-plant wash system.

From the experiment, it was found that washing the head before cutting has reduced the E. coli O157: H7 population by 0.8 log10 CFU/g more than the TM with washing after cutting. Furthermore, when washing water with the disinfectant was treated by ultrasounds, the NM has allowed a further reduction in the microbial load from 0.37 to 0.68 log10 CFU/g, reaching a total reduction of 2.43 and 2.24 log10 CFU/g using chlorine and peroxyacetic acid, respectively.

The study has showed that washing the whole head before cutting (NM) has allowed a greater reduction of the microbial load and has improved the efficacy of disinfectants compared to the TM. The researchers conclude that this new method will help the fresh-cut produce industry to increase the sanitization practices efficacy and to reduce the risks related to the microbial contamination.

Source: Palma-Salgado S., Pearlstein A.J., Luo Y., Kyung Park H., Feng H., "Whole-head washing, prior to cutting, provides sanitization advantages for fresh-cut Iceberg lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.)", 2014, International Journal of Food Microbiology, Vol. 179, pagg. 18-23.

Publication date: 9/1/2014
Author: Emanuela Fontana


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