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Food Microbiol. 2011 Dec;28(8):1417-25. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Feb 11.

Fate of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in field-inoculated lettuce.

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Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616-8598, USA.


Impact of drip and overhead sprinkler irrigation on the persistence of attenuated Escherichia coli O157:H7 in the lettuce phyllosphere was investigated using a split-plot design in four field trials conducted in the Salinas Valley, California, between summer 2007 and fall 2009. Rifampicin-resistant attenuated E. coli O157:H7 ATCC 700728 (BLS1) was inoculated onto the soil beds after seeding with a backpack sprayer or onto 2- or 4-week-old lettuce plant foliage with a spray bottle at a level of 7 log CFU ml⁻¹. When E. coli O157:H7 was inoculated onto 2-week-old plants, the organism was recovered by enrichment in 1 of 120 or 0 of 240 plants at 21 or 28 days post-inoculation, respectively. For the four trials where inoculum was applied to 4-week-old plants, the population size of E. coli O157:H7 declined rapidly and by day 7, counts were near or below the limit of detection (10 cells per plant) for 82% or more of the samples. However, in 3 out 4 field trials E. coli O157:H7 was still detected in lettuce plants by enrichment 4-weeks post-inoculation. Neither drip nor overhead sprinkler irrigation consistently influenced the survival of E. coli O157:H7 on lettuce.

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