Fresh-cut produce is commonly washed in flumes with water containing sanitizers. Cross-contamination of pathogens between contaminated and uncontaminated produce can occur during commercial washing. Yet, the produce industry is without an approach to understand the performance of their washing systems. In the project named “Developing validation strategies for fresh-cut produce washing”, we evaluated the risk of E. coli O157:H7 cross-contamination by using small-scale and bench-scale lettuce wash experiments; determined optimal approaches for monitoring and maintaining preventive controls in a lettuce washing process; and analyzed E. coli O157:H7 cross-contamination in the commercial-scale washing flume.
Project outcomes provide the fresh produce industry
- A framework for the industry to validate their washing systems
- Tested and safe surrogates for commercial applications
- An understanding of the critical limits for sanitizer usage
- Verification of monitoring tools available for use during produce washing
The approach enables the industry to validate, monitor and adjust their washing step to consistently minimize the risk of cross-contamination.