Using Aqueous Chlorine Dioxide To Prevent Contamination of Tomatoes with Salmonella enterica and Erwinia carotovora during Fruit Washing

Khalid, M. F.
Pao, S.
KelSey, D. F.
Ettinger, M. R.
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Journal of Food Protection
Chlorine dioxide (ClO2) is an antimicrobial agent recognized for its disinfectant properties. In this study, the sanitizing effects of ClO2 solutions against Salmonella enterica and Erwinia carotovora in water, on tomato surfaces, and between loads of tomatoes were evaluated. In water, ClO2 at 5, 10, and 20 ppm caused a 5-log reduction of S. enterica within 6, 4, and 2 s, respectively. Higher lethality was observed with E. carotovora; a 5-log reduction was achieved after only 2 s with 10 ppm ClO2. On fruit surfaces, however, the sanitizing effects were compromised. A full minute of contact with ClO2 at 20 and 10 ppm was required to achieve a 5-log reduction in S. enterica and E. carotovora counts, respectively, on freshly spot-inoculated tomatoes. On inoculated fruit surfaces, populations decreased 3 log CFU/cm2 during desiccation at 24 1 C for 24 h. Populations of air-dried Salmonella and Erwinia were not significantly reduced (P 0.05) by ClO2 at 20 ppm after 1 min. Either wet or dry inoculum of these two pathogens could contaminate immersion water, which in turn can cross-contaminate a subsequent load of clean fruit and water. ClO2 at 5 ppm used for immersion effectively prevented cross-contamination. Pathogen contamination during fruit handling is best prevented with an effective disinfectant. Once a load of fruit is contaminated with pathogens, even a proven disinfectant such as ClO2 cannot completely eliminate such contaminants, particularly when they are in a dehydrated state on fruit.