Multi-state outbreaks of salmonellosis due to the consumption of contaminated fresh tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) have recently occurred in the United States. This study investigated the survival of a five-serovar (serotype) Salmonella cocktail artificially inoculated onto tomato and packing line surfaces when held at various temperature and relative humidity (RH) combinations over 28 days. Packinghouse surfaces included stainless steel, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), sponge rollers, conveyor belts, and unfinished oak wood surfaces. Packinghouse climates were generated to simulate conditions in Florida during late spring (30 °C/80% RH) and fall/winter (20 °C/60% RH) months. Additionally, survival of Salmonella on tomatoes in standard ripening room conditions (20 °C/90% RH) was evaluated. Recovery of inocula was by a vigorous shake/hand rub method. After 28 days, Salmonella populations remained detectable on tomato surfaces regardless of environmental conditions. Inoculated Salmonella populations tested at spring conditions declined to undetectable levels on all packing line materials by day 11, with the exception of the unfinished oak, which reached undetectable levels by day 21. In contrast, inoculated Salmonella populations tested at fall/winter conditions declined to undetectable levels on sponge rollers and conveyor belts by day 7 and day 21, respectively. Stainless steel, PVC, and wood surfaces supported the survival of detectable populations of Salmonella over the 28-day sampling period. Results of this study demonstrate the potential for Salmonella to persist on tomato and packing line surfaces under common environmental conditions.
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