Introduction

The detection of human pathogens in fresh produce and occurrence of outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with contaminated produce, as documented in previous chapters, represent serious public health problems. Contamination of fruits and vegetables with human pathogens or organisms causing spoilage also has important economic consequences. Consequently, it is in the interests of the produce industry to develop interventions to reduce the risk of microbial contamination. If contamination is likely during crop production or harvest, it is usually better to reduce this risk by avoidance of contamination sources through implementation of good agricultural practices (GAPs). However, this is not always possible, and in such situations the grower/shipper or processor must depend on washing and sanitizing treatments as a second line of defense. If produce contamination occurs post-harvest and contamination sources cannot be eliminated through improvements in plant layout, implementation of good manufacturing practices (GMPs), and improvements in plant sanitation, then washing and sanitizing of produce and equipment become the first line of defense. The subject of washing and sanitizing technology for fresh produce has been reviewed previously [1-3].

In this chapter we review the efficacy, advantages, and disadvantages of conventional washing and sanitizing agents for fresh fruits and vegetables. We also examine the regulatory status of interventions for decontamination of produce and equipment. We examine the types of equipment available for treatment application and their performance. We briefly consider some of the factors that limit the efficacy of cleaning and sanitizing agents and methods of treatment. We examine the potential of new treatments for produce decontamination. We also consider the problem of decontamination of fresh fruits and vegetables in foodservice situations or in the home. This chapter does not examine vapor-phase treatments, surface pasteurization, nonthermal physical treatments, or biological control methods, all of which are covered elsewhere in the book.

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