Summary of Awards to Date

Control of Listeria monocytogenes on apple through spray manifold-applied antimicrobial intervention

Date

Jan. 1, 2017 - Jun. 30, 2019

Award Number

2017-120F

Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety

Amount Awarded

$290,000.00

Investigator

Meiju Zhu
Washington State University

Co-Investigator(s)

Dr. Trevor Suslow, UC Davis

Summary

 Listeria monocytogenes is listed by the Food and Drug Administration as a ‘pathogen of concern’ and has been singled out on both ready-to-wash and ready-to-eat produce due to its nature as a true evironmental species. The pacific apple industry, led by Washington, suffered a significant loss of income following the L. monocytogenes outbreak traced back to a California packer. The final FDA Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule are challenging apple packers and handlers to develop specific efficacy data for their process controls.  The apple industry has an immediate need to begin the process of science-based improvements in Listeria control during packing and subsequent storage. The overall goal of the proposed studies is to comparatively assess and validate critical operating parameters for registered, commercially practical, and legally allowed sanitizer(s) against L. monocytogenes, and to further seek to verify their efficacy on multiple apple packing lines. The proposed project will develop information for apple producers about the practical efficacy of antimicrobial interventions under commercial packing conditions, resulting in tested and proven methods for spray bar intervention in fresh apples, which will fill critical gaps in the knowledge. It will be crucial for addressing L. monocytogenes safety in fresh apples.

Technical Abstract

The pacific apple industry, led by Washington State, suffered a significant loss of income following the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak traced back to a California packer. The final FDA Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Rule are challenging apple packers and handlers to develop specific efficacy data for their process controls.  The apple industry has an immediate need to begin the process of science-based improvements in Listeria control during packing and subsequent storage. The overall goal of the proposed studies is to comparatively assess and validate critical operating parameters for registered, commercially practical, and legally allowed (Generally Recognized as Safe; GRAS) sanitizer(s) against L. monocytogenes, and to further verify their efficacy on multiple apple packing lines. We will pursue two specific objectives: 1) Validate the efficacy of selected sanitizers against L. monocytogenes on whole apple surfaces through laboratory testing; 2) Verify the selected sanitizer interventions in model/ pilot packing line and representative commercial apple packing lines in two states. The proposed project targets to identify effective intervention methods in substantially minimizing L. monocytogenes on a contaminated apple surface and preventing cross-contamination between non-contaminated fruit and fruit contact surfaces within the spray-bed operations and immediate down-stream handling surfaces; evaluate the fidelity of Enterococccus faecium NRRL B-2354 as a surrogate for L. monocytogenes in sanitizer inactivation validation in apple packing lines. The proposed studies will result in science-based data for apple producers about the practical efficacy of registered and economical antimicrobial interventions under commercial packing conditions, resulting in tested and proven methods for spray bar intervention in fresh apples. Knowledge obtained will be disseminated to the apple and tree fruit industries, generating immediately actionable information for the apple packers and handlers in Washington and California and other regions. Equally, there is a high potential for transferability to other tree fruit and fruit vegetable commodities with similar surface traits and postharvest handling systems.