Transfer of escherichia coli O157: H7 from simulated wildlife scat onto romaine lettuce during foliar irrigation

Edward R Atwill, Jennifer A. Chase, David Oryang, Ronald F. Bond, Steven T. Koike, Michael D. Cahn, Maren Anderson, Amirhossein Mokhtari, Sherri Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

A field trial in Salinas Valley, California, was conducted during July 2011 to quantify the microbial load that transfers from wildlife feces onto nearby lettuce during foliar irrigation. Romaine lettuce was grown using standard commercial practices and irrigated using an impact sprinkler design. Five grams of rabbit feces was spiked with 1.29 × 108 CFU of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and placed-3,-2, and-1 days and immediately before a 2-h irrigation event. Immediately after irrigation, 168 heads of lettuce ranging from ca. 23 to 69 cm (from 9 to 27 in.) from the fecal deposits were collected, and the concentration of E. coli O157:H7 was determined. Thirty-eight percent of the collected lettuce heads had detectable E. coli O157:H7, ranging from 1 MPN to 2.30 × 105 MPN per head and a mean concentration of 7.37 × 103 MPN per head. Based on this weighted arithmetic mean concentration of 7.37 × 103 MPN of bacteria per positive head, only 0.00573% of the original 5 g of scat with its mean load of 1.29 × 108 CFU was transferred to the positive heads of lettuce. Bacterial contamination was limited to the outer leaves of lettuce. In addition, factors associated with the transfer of E. coli O157:H7 from scat to lettuce were distance between the scat and lettuce, age of scat before irrigation, and mean distance between scat and the irrigation sprinkler heads. This study quantified the transfer coefficient between scat and adjacent heads of lettuce as a function of irrigation. The data can be used to populate a quantitative produce risk assessment model for E. coli O157:H7 in romaine lettuce to inform risk management and food safety policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-247
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Food Protection
Volume78
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology

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    Atwill, E. R., Chase, J. A., Oryang, D., Bond, R. F., Koike, S. T., Cahn, M. D., Anderson, M., Mokhtari, A., & Dennis, S. (2015). Transfer of escherichia coli O157: H7 from simulated wildlife scat onto romaine lettuce during foliar irrigation. Journal of Food Protection, 78(2), 240-247. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-14-277