Factors Limiting the Efficacy of Washing

The action of commercial washing agents and equipment in removing or inactivating microorganisms on fresh produce is not well understood. In general, microbial populations on produce surfaces are not easily detached or inactivated for a number of reasons discussed in Chapters 2 and 3. Briefly, the microbial contaminants may become strongly attached to the produce surface by physical forces within a short time of contamination or incorporated within a biofilm over a longer time period. Microbial contaminants may be located in a protected attachment site, e.g., a cut surface, puncture, or pore, where a wash solution cannot reach. Microorganisms also may become internalized within the commodity either during crop production or when submerged in water in a packing plant dump tank or flume as a consequence of infiltration driven by a negative temperature differential or by hydrostatic pressure. Consequently, the inaccessible population will escape direct contact with a cleaning or sanitizing agent in a commercial washer. These conditions are discussed in greater detail in an earlier review article [3] and in Chapter 3.

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