Increased interest in blueberries due to their nutritional and health benefits has led to an increase in consumption. However, blueberries are consumed mostly raw or minimally processed and are susceptible to microbial contamination like other type of fresh produce. This study was, therefore, undertaken to evaluate the efficacy of electrostatic spray of electrolyzed oxidizing (EO) water, UV light, ozone, and a combination of ozone and UV light in killing Escherichia coli O157:H7 on blueberries. A 5-strain mixture of E. coli O157:H7 were inoculated on the calyx and skin of blueberries and then subjected to the treatments. Electrostatic EO water spray reduced initial populations of E. coli O157:H7 by only 0.13 to 0.24 log CFU/g and 0.88 to 1.10 log CFU/g on calyx and skin of blueberries, respectively. Ozone treatment with 4000 mg/L reduced E. coli O157:H7 by only 0.66 and 0.72 log CFU/g on calyx and skin of blueberries, respectively. UV light at 20 mW/cm² for 10 min was the most promising single technology and achieved 2.14 and greater than 4.05 log reductions of E. coli O157:H7 on the calyx and skin of blueberries, respectively. The combination treatment of 1 min ozone and followed by a 2 min UV achieved more than 1 and 2 log additional reductions on blueberry calyx than UV or ozone alone, respectively.
Practical application: Outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have been associated with consumption of fresh produce. Many methods for removing pathogens as well as minimizing their effect on quality of treated produce have been investigated. UV technology and its combination with ozone used in this study to inactive E. coli O157:H7 on blueberries was found effective. Results from this study may help producers and processors in developing hurdle technologies for the delivery of safer blueberries to consumers.
© 2012 Institute of Food Technologists®