Alfalfa and other seed sprouts have been implicated in several Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. human illness outbreaks in the U.S. Continuing food safety issues with alfalfa seeds necessitate the need for discovery and use of novel and effective antimicrobials. The potential use of caprylic acid (CA) and monocaprylin (MC) for reducing E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. populations on alfalfa seeds was evaluated. The effectiveness of three concentrations of CA and MC (25, 50, and 75 mM) to reduce E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. populations in 0.1% peptone water and on alfalfa seeds was evaluated. Surviving populations of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. were enumerated by direct plating on tryptic soy agar (TSA). Non-inoculated alfalfa seeds were soaked for up to 120 min to evaluate the effect of CA and MC solutions on seed germination rate. For planktonic cells, the efficacy of the treatments was: 75 MC > 50 MC > 25 MC > 75 CA > 50 CA > 25 CA. Both E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. were reduced to below the detection limit (0.6 log CFU/ml) within 10 min of exposure to 75 MC from initial populations of 7.65 ± 0.10 log CFU/ml and 7.71 ± 0.11 log CFU/ml, respectively. Maximum reductions of 1.56 ± 0.25 and 2.56 ± 0.17 log CFU/g for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp., respectively, were achieved on inoculated alfalfa seeds (from initial populations of 4.74 ± 0.62 logCFU/g and 5.27±0.20logCFU/g, respectively) when treated with 75 MC for 90 min. Germination rates of CA or MC treated seeds ranged from 84% to 99%. The germination rates of CA or MC soaked seeds and water soaked seeds (control) were similar (P > 0.05) for soaking times of ≤ 90 min. Monocaprylin (75 mM) can be used to reduce E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. on alfalfa seeds without compromising seed viability.
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