Microflora Of Melons

Melons, especially cantaloupe, present a variety of surfaces to which microorganisms may bind. In cantaloupe the epidermal cell surface is ruptured with a meshwork of raised tissue (the net). This net consists of lenticels and phellum (cork) cells. These cells have hydrophobic suberized walls to reduce water loss and protect against pathogen ingress. Also imparting a hydrophobic nature to the outer surface of cantaloupe is the cuticle composed of waxes and cutin that cover the epidermal cells [14].

The ability of pathogenic and spoilage-causing bacteria to adhere to surfaces of melons represents a food safety problem of great concern as well as a source of economic loss to the produce and fresh-cut industry. The mechanism of attachment of bacterial cells to plant surfaces has been studied most extensively for plant pathogens and symbionts [15,16]. The predominant class of organisms on cantaloupe and honeydew melon were aerobic mesophilic bacteria followed by lactic acid bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria, yeasts and molds, and Pseudomonas spp. [17]. The populations of each of the categories of microorganisms were found to be higher on cantaloupe than on honeydew, both for whole and fresh-cut melon. Differences in the populations of the native microflora on honeydew and cantaloupe melons are most likely due to the rougher surface of the cantaloupe compared to the relatively smooth surface of honeydew melon. The extensive raised netting on the surface of cantaloupe melon no doubt provides more microbial attachments sites and helps to protect attached microbes from being washed from the surface, and possibly from environmental stresses such as UV radiation and desiccation. In unwrapped and wrapped sliced watermelon, Pseudomonas spp., E. coli, Enterobacter spp., and micrococci comprised the predominant microflora [18].

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