Spoilage of vegetable crops by bacteria and fungi and related health hazards

Crit Rev Microbiol. 2005;31(1):33-44. doi: 10.1080/10408410590886024.


After harvest, vegetables are often spoiled by a wide variety of microorganisms including many bacterial and fungal species. The most common bacterial agents are Erwinia carotovora, Pseudomonas spp., Corynebacterium, Xanthomonas campestris, and lactic acid bacteria with E. carotovora being the most common, attacking virtually every vegetable type. Fungi commonly causing spoilage of fresh vegetables are Botrytis cinerea, various species of the genera Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Colletotrichum, Phomopsis, Fusarium, Penicillium, Phoma, Phytophthora, Pythium and Rhizopus spp., Botrytis cinerea, Ceratocystis fimbriata, Rhizoctonia solani, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and some mildews. A few of these organisms show a substrate preference whereas others such as Botrytis cinerea, Colletotrichum, Alternaria, Cladosporium, Phytophthora, and Rhizopus spp., affect a wide variety of vegetables causing devastating losses. Many of these agents enter the plant tissue through mechanical or chilling injuries, or after the skin barrier has been broken down by other organisms. Besides causing huge economic losses, some fungal species could produce toxic metabolites in the affected sites, constituting a potential health hazard for humans. Additionally, vegetables have often served as vehicles for pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites and were implicated in many food borne illness outbreaks. In order to slow down vegetable spoilage and minimize the associated adverse health effects, great caution should be taken to follow strict hygiene, good agricultural practices (GAPs) and good manufacturing practices (GMPs) during cultivation, harvest, storage, transport, and marketing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • Crops, Agricultural / microbiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Food Preservation
  • Fungi
  • Humans
  • Vegetables / microbiology*
  • Viruses