Aims: Escherichia coli O157:H7 was monitored daily during sprouting of alfalfa seeds inoculated at high (3.92 log10 cfu g(-1)) and low (1.86 log10 cfu g(-1)) levels to assess the extent of pathogen growth during production.
Methods and results: Sprouts and rinse water were tested by direct and membrane filter plating on modified sorbitol MacConkey agar and BCM O157:H7(+) agar; the antibody-direct epifluorescent filter technique; and rapid immunoassays. The pathogen reached maximum populations after one and two days of sprouting seeds inoculated at high and low levels, respectively; in either case, populations of 5-6 log10 cfu g(-1) were reached. Detection limits of two rapid immunoassays, Reveal and VIP, without enrichment were determined to be 5-7 log10 cfu ml(-1).
Conclusion: These results show the ability of E. coli O157:H7 to grow to high levels during sprouting; however, because these levels may be below detection limits, it is necessary to include enrichment when monitoring sprout production for E. coli O157:H7 by the rapid test kits.
Significance and impact of the study: The data indicate that sprouts may harbor high levels of pathogens. The appropriate use of rapid test methods for pathogen monitoring during sprouting is indicated.