Produce Safety in Organic vs. Conventional Crops

USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, USA; U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate, Food Safety and Defense Team, Natick, MA 01760-5018, USA; Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
DOI: 10.1002/9781444319347.ch4 In book: Microbial Safety of Fresh Produce, pp.81 - 99
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    ABSTRACT: Escherichia coli O157:H7 can survive in low numbers in soil and on plants. Occasionally, conditions may occur in the field that lead to contamination of produce. Survival of enteric pathogens in the field is controlled to a certain extent by complex interactions with indigenous soilborne and seedborne epiphytes. Identifying these interactions may assist in developing strategies to improve produce safety. Two epiphytes were isolated from pathogen-contaminated plants that interact differently with E. coli O157:H7. Wausteria paucula enhanced the survival of E. coli O157:H7 six-fold on lettuce foliage grown from coinoculated lettuce seed. In contrast, Enterobacter asburiae decreased E. coli O157:H7 survival 20- to 30-fold on foliage. Competition also occurred in the rhizosphere and in plant exudate. This competition may be the result of E. asburiae utilization of several of the carbon and nitrogen substrates typically present in exudate and also used by E. coli O157:H7. Hence, competition observed on the plant may involve one or more nutrients provided by the plant. In contrast, a different mechanism may exist between E. coli O157:H7 and W. paucula since commensalism was only observed on foliage, not in the rhizosphere or plant exudate. Good agricultural practices that encourage the growth of competing bacteria, like E. asburiae, may reduce the incidence of produce contamination.
    Journal of food protection 11/2006; 69(10):2329-35. · 1.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A range of commercially available organic vegetables (n = 86) was examined for the presence of Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, E. coli O 157. Listeria and Aeromonas spp., to provide information on the occurrence of such organisms in organic vegetables in Northern Ireland. The study was not designed to quantify such organisms or to compare occurrence with conventionally farmed vegetables. Standard enrichment techniques were used to isolate and identify enteric pathogens and Aeromonas species. No Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli. E. coli O 157, Listeria were found in any of the samples examined. Aeromonas species were isolated from 34% of the total number of organic vegetables examined. Many (64%) of the organic vegetables examined were "ready-to-eat" after minimal processing, i.e., washing. Aeromonas spp. was isolated from 41% of these vegetables. Aeromonas spp. was not recovered from certain vegetable types. The most commonly isolated species of Aeromonas was Aeromonas schubertii with 21.0% of all samples contaminated with this species; 5.8% of samples contained A. hydrophila, 5.8% A. trota, 3.5% A. caviae and 2.3% contained A. veronii biovar veronii. Although Aeromonas species are frequently detected in organic vegetables, the absence of accepted enteric pathogens was encouraging, and does not support the allegation of organic foods being of high risk due to the farming methods used.
    International Journal of Food Microbiology 11/2001; 70(1-2):155-62. · 3.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Microbiological analyses of fresh fruits and vegetables produced by organic and conventional farmers in Minnesota were conducted to determine the coliform count and the prevalence of Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7. A total of 476 and 129 produce samples were collected from 32 organic and 8 conventional farms, respectively. The samples included tomatoes, leafy greens, lettuce, green peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, broccoli, strawberries, apples, and seven other types of produce. The numbers of fruits and vegetables was influenced by their availability at participating farms and varied from 11 strawberry samples to 108 tomato samples. Among the organic farms, eight were certified by accredited agencies and the rest reported the use of organic practices. All organic farms used aged or composted animal manure as fertilizer. The average coliform counts in both organic and conventional produce were 2.9 log most probable number per g. The percentages of E. coli-positive samples in conventional and organic produce were 1.6 and 9.7%, respectively. However, the E. coli prevalence in certified organic produce was 4.3%, a level not statistically different from that in conventional samples. Organic lettuce had the largest prevalence of E. coli (22.4%) compared with other produce types. Organic samples from farms that used manure or compost aged less than 12 months had a prevalence of E. coli 19 times greater than that of farms that used older materials. Serotype O157:H7 was not detected in any produce samples, but Salmonella was isolated from one organic lettuce and one organic green pepper. These results provide the first microbiological assessment of organic fruits and vegetables at the farm level.
    Journal of food protection 06/2004; 67(5):894-900. · 1.83 Impact Factor

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