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Int J Food Microbiol. 2003 Oct 15;87(1-2):145-52.

Influence of surfactant hydrophobicity on the detachment of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from lettuce.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2106, USA.


The influence of surfactant hydrophobicity on detachment of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from lettuce was determined. Lettuce pieces inoculated with the pathogen were rinsed with Tween and Span surfactants of different hydrophobicity. Of the Tweens, only Tween 85, the Tween with the lowest hydrophile/lipophile balance (HLB), significantly detached the pathogen from lettuce surface. Span 85 (the surfactant with the lowest HLB studied) exhibited the greatest ability among surfactants tested to detach cells from lettuce. This surfactant removed cells attached to the leaf cuticle but not to the cut edge, and caused no detectable reduction in viability of cells remaining on the lettuce. Treatment with Span 85 did not detach cells when they were allowed to attach in the presence of calcium ions. The combination of NaCl/NaHCO3 (pH 10) and Span 85 did not detach cells possibly due to reduced hydrophobicity of the Span at this pH. This study suggests that surfactants of low HLB disrupt hydrophobic interactions between E. coli O157:H7 and the lettuce surface but cannot cause release of cells adhering to hydrophilic structures such as cut or damaged tissue.

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