Inactivation of Escherichia coli O157: H7 on romaine lettuce when inoculated in a fecal slurry matrix

Jennifer A. Chase, Edward R. Atwill, Melissa L. Partyka, Ronald F. Bond, David Oryang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


A field trial was conducted in July 2011 to quantify the inactivation rate of Escherichia coli O157:H7 when mixed with fecal slurry and applied to romaine lettuce leaves. Lettuce was grown under commercial conditions in Salinas Valley, CA. One-half milliliter of rabbit fecal slurry, containing 6.3×107 CFU of E. coli O157:H7, was inoculated onto the upper (adaxial) surface of a lower leaf on 240 heads of lettuce within 30 min after a 2.5-h irrigation event. Forty-eight romaine lettuce heads were collected per event at 2.5 h (day 0.1), 19.75 h (day 0.8), 43.25 h (day 1.8), 67.25 h (day 2.8), and 91.75 h (day 3.8) postinoculation and were analyzed for the concentration of E. coli O157:H7 (Ct). E. coli O157:H7 was detected on 100% of collected heads in concentrations ranging from 340 to 3.40 × 1010 most probable number (MPN) per head. Enumeration data indicate substantial growth of E. coli O157:H7 postinoculation (2.5 h), leading to elevated concentrations, 1 to 3 log above the starting inoculum concentration (Co). By the end of the 92-h trial, we observed a net 0.8-log mean reduction of E. coli O157:H7 compared with Co; however, after accounting for the substantial bacterial growth, there was an overall 2.3-log reduction by the final sampling event (92 h). On the basis of two different regression models that used either the raw data for Ct or log-transformed values of Ct/Co during the period 2.5 to 91.75 h postinoculation, there was an estimated 76 to 80% reduction per day in bacterial counts; however, more accurate predictions of MPN per head of lettuce were generated by using non-log-transformed values of Ct. This study provides insight into the survival of E. coli O157:H7 transferred via splash from a contaminated fecal source onto produce during irrigation. Moreover, these findings can help generate inactivation times following a potential contamination incident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-798
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Food Protection
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Escherichia coli O157:H7
  • Fecal contamination
  • Field trial
  • Produce
  • Slurry
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Food Science


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