Conclusions

The efficacy of conventional washing technology in reducing populations of human pathogens and other microorganisms on fresh produce surfaces is limited to 1 to 2 logs, a significant improvement compared to the unwashed produce but insufficient to ensure food safety. Incremental improvements in washing efficacy can be obtained through buffering, addition of surfactants, temperature elevation, full immersion, and washing with vigorous agitation. However, greater population reductions cannot be obtained because of the strength of microbial attachment to produce and location of attached microorganisms in inaccessible sites. Approved alternatives to chlorine may provide certain technical advantages and avoid disadvantages such as formation of toxic reaction products, but differences in antimicrobial efficacy are small. Washing agents developed for foodservice or home use may exhibit antimicrobial activity, but safe and uniform application may be problematic without the controls available for large-scale produce packing and processing applications. Microbial reduction benefits claimed by many purveyors of home-use formulations, especially those marketed via the internet, are unsubstantiated. Experimental washing agents, if found to be technically and economically feasible, or synergistic sequences or combinations of treatments may provide addition gains in efficacy over current technology, but attainment of high levels of safety such as afforded by a 5 log reduction in pathogen populations is unrealistic. Use of other technologies such as surface pasteurization or irradiation may be required to reach this level of safety.

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