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J Food Prot. 2001 Aug;64(8):1110-5.

Analysis of native microflora and selection of strains antagonistic to human pathogens on fresh produce.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania 19038, USA.


The native microflora of three types of produce (green bell peppers, Romaine lettuce, and prepeeled baby carrots) and two types of sprouting seeds (alfalfa and clover) were investigated. Aerobic plate count (APC) for each produce or seed type as determined on Pseudomonas agar F (PAF) with incubation at 28 degrees C was in the range of 4 to 7 log CFU per g of tissue or seed. There was no significant difference (P > or = 0.05) in APC when the determinations were made with three agar media including PAF, brain heart infusion agar, and plate count agar. However, the APC as determined from plates that were incubated at 28 degrees C was significantly (P < or = 0.05) higher than with incubation at 37 degrees C. Fluorescent pseudomonads accounted for 23 to 73% of APC and 6 to 18% of APC recovered from carrots, pepper, and lettuce were pectolytic. Forty-eight strains of pectolytic bacteria were randomly isolated and identified, respectively, as members of the genera of Pseudomonas, Erwinia, Bacillus, Xanthomonas, or Flavobacterium. Lactic acid bacteria and/or yeast were consistently isolated from baby carrots, lettuce, and sprouting seeds (alfalfa or clover) but not from green bell peppers. Approximately 120 strains of indigenous microflora were tested for their ability to inhibit the growth of Salmonella Chester, Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, or Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora on PAF. Six isolates capable of inhibiting the growth of at least one pathogen were isolated and identified, respectively, as Bacillus spp. (three strains), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (one strain), Pseudomonas fluorescens (strain A3), and yeast (strain D1). When green pepper disks were inoculated with strains A3 and D1, the growth of Salmonella Chester and L. monocytogenes on the disks was reduced by 1 and 2 logs, respectively, over a period of 3 days. Application of strains A3 and D1 as potential biopreservatives for enhancing the quality and safety of fresh produce is discussed.

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