Effectiveness of Bacteriophages in Reducing Escherichia coli O157:H7 on Fresh-Cut Cantaloupes and Lettuce

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Consumption of produce contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 has resulted in cases of foodborne illness. We determined the efficacy of a mixture of three E. coli O157:H7–specific bacteriophages (ECP-100) in reducing the number of viable E. coli O157:H7 on contaminated fresh-cut iceberg lettuce and cantaloupe. E. coli O157:H7 was spot inoculated on lettuce pieces (9 cm2) with a population of 3.76 log CFU/cm2, allowed to dry, and then sprayed with a control (phosphatebuffered saline) or ECP-100 to deliver 7.98 log PFU/cm2 to lettuce stored for 2 days at 4°C. Cut pieces of cantaloupe were spot inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 (4.55 log CFU/ml) and treated with the control or ECP-100 (6.69 log PFU/ml), and then stored at 4 or 20°C for up to 7 days. On days 0, 2, 5, and 7, cantaloupe samples were homogenized, and populations of E. coli O157:H7 were enumerated. Populations of E. coli O157:H7 on lettuce treated with ECP-100 on 0, 1, and 2 days (0.72, 0.22, and 0.58 log CFU/cm2 of lettuce) and stored at 4°C were significantly (P < 0.05) lower than those treated with the control (2.64, 1.79, and 2.22 log CFU/cm2), respectively. Populations on cut cantaloupes treated with ECP-100 on days 2, 5, and 7 (0.77, 1.28, and 0.96 log CFU/ml) and stored at 4°C were significantly lower than those cut cantaloupes treated with the control (3.34, 3.23, and 4.09 log CFU/ml), respectively. This study is the first to show the effectiveness of bacteriophages to reduce E. coli O157:H7 on fresh-cut lettuce and cantaloupes.

Manan Sharma
Jitendra R. Patel
William S. Conway
Sean Ferguson
Alexander Sulakvelidze
Journal of Food Protection