Jan. 1, 2011 - Dec. 31, 2012Award Number
Michelle Danyluk, Ph.D
University of Florida
Keith Schneider, Ph.D.Resources
The establishment standards related to removal of dirt and debris from tomato fruits during field pack operations and re-use of tomato cartons in re-pack operations within the Tomato Good Agricultural Practices and Best Management Practices document is essential for the responsible harvesting, handling and packing of fresh tomatoes. Understanding risks potential transfer of pathogens onto tomatoes from used tomato cartons or cloths used to remove debris is a fundamental management prerequisite to providing customers with safe tomatoes. There is inadequate science-based data to base current standards and audit inspection criteria for re-use of tomato cartons and removal of dirt and debris from tomatoes. The purpose of this research project is to define risks associated with dirt and debris removal in the field and re-use of tomato cartons in re-pack operations. The research outcomes will allow for the assignment of research-based metrics for in field debris removal and re use of tomato cartons for the fresh tomato industry.
Use of the term “cross-contamination” during traceback investigations and in the general discussion of possible routes of produce contamination is common from industry, academia and government officials. For fresh tomatoes, much attention has been focused on potential routes of “cross-contamination” with Salmonella during production, harvest and post-harvest packaging and processing. Little data which quantify cross-contamination risks specific to practices used during harvest and packing tomatoes exist. The lack of specific, quantified cross-contamination data related to risks associated with pathogen transfer from dirty cleaning cloths or soiled re-used cartons remains a barrier in the development of specific best practices for the fresh tomato industry. Laboratory based experiments will provide scientifically-based metrics to minimize risks related to infield debris removal during harvest of field-packed tomatoes, and re-use of tomato cartons in re-pack operations. Specifically, transfer coefficients between Salmonella inoculated clean and dirty cloths and tomatoes, the fate of Salmonella on clean and dirty cloths, transfer coefficients between dirty used tomato cartons and Salmonella and the fate of Salmonella on dirty used tomato cartons will be evaluated. A comprehensive tomato food safety review will also be generated. In summary, this proposal will develop scientifically-based metrics on how debris from tomatoes can be performed in the field without increasing the relative food safety risk and how tomato cartons can be re-used safely in repacking operations directly applicable for the fresh tomato industry.