The Produce Contamination Problem

The Produce Contamination Problem, 2nd Edition

Causes and Solutions

The Produce Contamination Problem, 2nd Edition,Karl Matthews,Gerald Sapers,Charles Gerba,ISBN9780124046115

Matthews   &   Sapers   &   Gerba   

Academic Press




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Prevent produce contamination before it occurs.

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Key Features

  • Addresses food-borne contaminations from a prevention view, providing proactive solutions to the problems
  • Covers core sources of contamination and methods for identifying those sources
  • Includes best practice and regulatory information


Understanding the causes and contributing factors leading to outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with contamination of fresh produce is a worldwide challenge for everyone from the growers of fresh-cut produce through the entire production and delivery process. The premise of The Produce Contamination Problem is that when human pathogen contamination of fresh produce occurs, it is extremely difficult to reduce pathogen levels sufficiently to assure microbiological safety with the currently available technologies. A wiser strategy would be to avoid crop production conditions that result in microbial contamination to start.

These critical, problem-oriented chapters have been written by researchers active in the areas of food safety and microbial contamination during production, harvesting, packing and fresh-cut processing of horticultural crops, and were designed to provide methods of contamination avoidance. Coverage includes policy and practices in the United States, Mexico and Central America, Europe, and Japan.


This book will be useful to growers, packers and fresh-cut processors and their trade associations and suppliers, especially those impacted by outbreaks of food-borne illness. Also a valuable source of information to researchers at universities and government agencies who are investigating means of avoiding contamination and improving the microbiological safety of fresh produce.

Karl Matthews

Affiliations and Expertise

Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, USA

Gerald Sapers

Affiliations and Expertise


Charles Gerba

Affiliations and Expertise

University of Arizona, Tucson, USA

View additional works by Charles P. Gerba

The Produce Contamination Problem, 2nd Edition

Food Science and Technology International Series



Part 1 Produce Contamination:Scope and Sources

Chapter 1. Scope of the Produce Contamination Problem


Key aspects of the produce contamination problem

Potential sources of produce contamination

Gaps in our understanding of produce contamination

Chapter 2. Microbial Attachment and Persistence on Plants


Ecological niches and introduction into the plant environment

Outbreak investigations reveal sources and persistence of pathogens

Attachment of pathogens to plant tissue

Biofilm formation on produce surfaces

Internalization and persistence

Specific interactions of the pathogens with commodities

Plant defense response to human enteric pathogens


Chapter 3. Identification of the Source of Contamination


Overview: phases of a foodborne outbreak investigation

Specifics of environmental investigations

Training needs for environmental investigators of retail, food processing facilities, packing sheds, and farms

Resuming operations

Farm investigations

Packinghouse investigations

Vacuum cooler/hydrocooler investigation

Fresh-cut produce processor investigations

Intentional contamination

Lessons learned


Editor’s Note

Chapter 4. Manure Management


Manure use on crops

Survival of pathogens in manure

Pastures, lots, and runoff

Manure treatment technologies



Chapter 5. Bioaerosol Contamination of Produce: Potential Issues from an Unexplored Contaminant Route



Potential for crop contamination – sources of bioaerosols


Chapter 6. Water Quality


Irrigation water

Water quality standards for irrigation water

Occurrence of pathogens in irrigation water

Contamination of produce during irrigation

Survival of pathogens on produce in the field

Other sources

Summary and conclusions

Chapter 7. Disease Risks Posed by Wild Birds Associated with Agricultural Landscapes


Bird species commonly associated with agriculture

Bacterial diseases

Fungal diseases

Parasitic diseases

Determinating risk and control points

Mitigation options


Chapter 8. Produce Contamination by Other Wildlife


Viral pathogens

Bacterial pathogens

Parasitic pathogens



Mitigating wildlife–crop interactions


Part 2 Commodities Associated with Major Outbreaks and Recalls

Chapter 9. Leafy Vegetables


Outbreaks associated with leafy greens

Growing conditions by geographical region: link to outbreaks

Harvesting practices: influence on contamination

Processing practices and product contamination

Washing and sanitizing


Chapter 10. Melons


Prevalence of human pathogens in and on melons

Outbreaks of foodborne disease linked to melons

Structural characteristics of melons promoting microbial survival and growth

Fresh-cut melons


Chapter 11. Microbiological Safety of Sprouted Seeds: Interventions and Regulations


Sprouted seed market structure

Seed production

Methods of sprout production

Pathogens linked to sprouted seeds

Outbreaks linked to sprouted seeds

Interactions of pathogens with sprouting seeds

Sources of contamination

Interventions to enhance the microbiological safety of sprouted seeds

Guidelines to enhance the microbiological safety of sprouted seeds

Conclusions and future directions

Chapter 12. Salmonella and Tomatoes


How Salmonella contaminates tomato fruit

Sources of Salmonella and other human pathogens in crop production environments

Salmonella ecology and its implications for produce safety

Interactions between Salmonella and tomatoes: molecular insights

The maturity stage of the tomato fruit affects Salmonella proliferation and its gene expressions

Interactions of Salmonella with plant-associated bacteria (including plant pathogens) and their implications in produce safety

Prevention of contamination of tomatoes by Salmonella

Research needs

Chapter 13. Tree Fruits and Nuts: Outbreaks, Contamination Sources, Prevention, and Remediation


Organisms of concern

Outbreaks associated with tree fruits

Outbreaks associated with tree nuts

Routes of contamination




Chapter 14. Berry Contamination: Outbreaks and Contamination Issues


The impact of major outbreaks

History of viral contamination of berries

Hepatitis A outbreaks with raspberries and strawberries

Norovirus-associated outbreaks with raspberries

The role of Cyclospora cayetanensis in berry-associated outbreaks

Transmission of Cyclospora oocysts and the role of foods

Bacterial contamination of berries

Contamination reduction strategies

In summary

Part 3 Contamination Avoidance Pre and Postharvest

Chapter 15. Produce Contamination Issues in Mexico and Central America


Sources of contamination


Prevalence and incidence of bacterial- , viral- , and protozoan-related gastroenteritis

Hygiene facilities

Good Agricultural Practices

Outbreak-related cases in Mexico and Central America


Chapter 16. Regulatory Issues in Europe Regarding Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Safety


The European Union

Fresh produce contamination problems in Europe

What do the Europeans do – European regulations

European Food Safety Authority


Differences from U.S. regulations

Funding of food safety research in Europe

Part 4 Technology for Reduction of Human Pathogens in Fresh Produce

Chapter 17. Disinfection of Contaminated Produce with Conventional Washing and Sanitizing Technology


Washing and sanitizing agents

Alternatives to chlorine

Other approved sanitizing agents for produce

Washing and sanitizing equipment

Efficacy of washing and sanitizing methods for problem commodities


Chapter 18. Advanced Technologies for Detection and Elimination of Bacterial Pathogens


Detection methods

Antimicrobial intervention technologies

The challenge of technology development for organic foods

Chapter 19. Conclusions and Recommendations


Sources of contamination

Commodities at risk

Challenges of produce disinfection

Investigating contamination on the farm

Pre-emptive food safety programs

The farm-to-fork approach


Food Science and Technology International Series

Quotes and reviews

"...useful to growers, packers, fresh-cut processers and their suppliers, especially those organisations impacted by outbreaks of foodborne illness."--FST Magazine,November 2014

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