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J Food Prot. 2007 May;70(5):1277-80.

Minimally processed vegetable salads: microbial quality evaluation.

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  • 1Departamento de Alimentos e Nutrição Experimental, Faculdade de Ciências Farmacêuticas, Universidade de São Paulo, Av. Professor Lineu Prestes 580, BL 14, 05508-900 São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


The increasing demand for fresh fruits and vegetables and for convenience foods is causing an expansion of the market share for minimally processed vegetables. Among the more common pathogenic microorganisms that can be transmitted to humans by these products are Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Salmonella. The aim of this study was to evaluate the microbial quality of a selection of minimally processed vegetables. A total of 181 samples of minimally processed leafy salads were collected from retailers in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Counts of total coliforms, fecal coliforms, Enterobacteriaceae, psychrotrophic microorganisms, and Salmonella were conducted for 133 samples. L. monocytogenes was assessed in 181 samples using the BAX System and by plating the enrichment broth onto Palcam and Oxford agars. Suspected Listeria colonies were submitted to classical biochemical tests. Populations of psychrotrophic microorganisms >10(6) CFU/g were found in 51% of the 133 samples, and Enterobacteriaceae populations between 10(5) and 106 CFU/g were found in 42% of the samples. Fecal coliform concentrations higher than 10(2) CFU/g (Brazilian standard) were found in 97 (73%) of the samples, and Salmonella was detected in 4 (3%) of the samples. Two of the Salmonella-positive samples had <10(2) CFU/g concentrations of fecal coliforms. L. monocytogenes was detected in only 1 (0.6%) of the 181 samples examined. This positive sample was simultaneously detected by both methods. The other Listeria species identified by plating were L. welshimeri (one sample of curly lettuce) and L. innocua (2 samples of watercress). The results indicate that minimally processed vegetables had poor microbiological quality, and these products could be a vehicle for pathogens such as Salmonella and L. monocytogenes.

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