The Persistence of Foodborne Pathogens on Produce Box Cartons
Previous studies have shown that a majority of vendors at farmers markets reuse cardboard cartons to store and transport produce to and from farmers markets, rendering the cartons a potential source of microbial contamination. This study investigated the ability of foodborne pathogens to persist on cardboard cartons over 44 days. Briefly, a mixture of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., and E. coli O157:H7 were inoculated onto cardboard coupons and pathogen viability was quantified for up to 44 days. The results demonstrated that while E. coli O157:H7 survived for no longer than 2 days, L. monocytogenes and Salmonella spp. were recovered up to 32 and 44 days, respectively. These results highlight key challenges associated with reusing cardboard containers and the potential of microbial contamination transfer onto produce. The results of this study emphasize the need for science-based food safety training for vendors and managers at farmers markets to ensure that only containers that can be easily cleaned and sanitized are used to transport and store produce.
Speaker / Author:
Sujata A. Sirsat, PhD, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston