Antimicrobial activity of essential oils against Escherichia coli O157:H7 in organic soil
Soil can be a significant source of preharvest contamination of produce by pathogens. Demand for natural pesticides such as essential oils for organic farming continues to increase. We examined the antimicrobial activity of several essential oils against Escherichia coli O157:H7 in soil. Two essential oils (cinnamaldehyde and eugenol), two bio-pesticides (Ecotrol and Sporan) containing essential oils, and an organic acid (acetic acid) at 0.5%, 1.0%, 1.5% and 2.0%, were mixed with organic sandy soil and inoculated with five different strains of E. coli O157:H7. Soils were incubated at room temperature (22 °C) and samples obtained at 1, 7 and 28 days were enumerated to determine survival. E. coli O157:H7 populations in soil were reduced by up to 5 log cfu/g after 24 h incubation at room temperature with 2% cinnamanaldehyde, Ecotrol, Sporan or vinegar. Reduction in E. coli O157:H7 by eugenol was not significantly different from control. Overall, E. coli O157:H7 strain 4406 was the most sensitive of all the five strains tested and cinnamaldehyde was superior to other treatments in reducing E. coli O157:H7 in soil. In general, increases in essential oil concentrations corresponded to reduced survival of E. coli O157:H7 with all oils used in this study. The results suggest that oils can reduce potential contamination of fresh organic produce inadvertently contaminated by soil.