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Hyun-Gyun Yuk, Benjamin R. Warren and Keith R. Schneider

Infiltration and survival of a rifampicin-resistant five-serovar Salmonella cocktail was investigated in laser-etched tomatoes (Lycopersicum esculentum) and smooth (untreated) and punctured (dye solution only) tomato surfaces in storage for 14 days at 25 °C/60% relative humidity. Surviving Salmonella populations were enumerated on tryptic soy agar supplemented with the antibiotic rifampicin. In the first survival study (laboratory-etched tomatoes), the population of Salmonella spp. in wounds increased to 6.8 log cfu/fruit, whereas cells on smooth surfaces decreased to undetectable levels during 14 days of storage. For etched tomatoes, the storage reduced 2.7 log cfu/fruit after the first 3 days; however, an increase was observed at 7 days, followed by a population decreased to 2.9 log cfu/fruit at 14 days. In the second survival study (pilot plant-etched tomatoes), the populations decreased a total of 3.5 log cfu/fruit and 2.5 log cfu/fruit comparing 1 day with 14 days for smooth and etched surfaces respectively. Infiltration of the dye solution or Salmonella beyond the area of immediate tissue damage was not observed on any tomato surface tested.

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Raina L. Allen, Benjamin R. Warren, Douglas L. Archer, Keith R. Schneider and Steven A. Sargent

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.