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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2001 Oct;67(10):4760-4.

Survival of salmonellae on and in tomato plants from the time of inoculation at flowering and early stages of fruit development through fruit ripening.

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  • 1Center for Food Safety and Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Georgia, Griffin, Georgia 30223-1797, USA.


The fate of salmonellae applied to tomato plants was investigated. Five Salmonella serotypes were used to inoculate tomato plants before and after fruits set, either by injecting stems with inoculum or brushing flowers with it. Ripe tomato fruits were subjected to microbiological analysis. Peptone wash water, homogenates of stem scar tissues, and homogenates of fruit pulp were serially diluted and plated on bismuth sulfite agar before and after enrichment. Presumptive Salmonella colonies were confirmed by serological tests, PCR assay using HILA2 primers, and enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus PCR. Of 30 tomatoes harvested from inoculated plants, 11 (37%) were positive for Salmonella. Of the Salmonella-positive tomatoes, 43 and 40%, respectively, were from plants receiving stem inoculation before and after flower set. Two of eight tomatoes produced from inoculated flowers contained Salmonella. Higher percentages of surface (82%) and stem scar tissue (73%) samples, compared to pulp of Salmonella-positive tomatoes (55%), harbored the pathogen. Of the five serotypes in the inoculum, Montevideo was the most persistent, being isolated from tomatoes 49 days after inoculation, and Poona was the most dominant, being present in 5 of 11 Salmonella-positive tomatoes. Results suggest that Salmonella cells survive in or on tomato fruits from the time of inoculation at flowering through fruit ripening. Tomato stems and flowers are possible sites at which Salmonella may attach and remain viable during fruit development, thus serving as routes or reservoirs for contaminating ripened fruit.

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