Fruits and vegetables represent an important part of the human diet, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and adding variety to the diet. In their Food Guide Pyramid, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages consumption of 3-5 servings of vegetable items, and 2-4 servings of fruit items per day. In today's global economy, fresh fruits and vegetables are available year round.
In the U.S. and other technologically advanced countries, high-quality fresh and processed fruits and vegetables are widely available. Fresh-cut fruits and vegetables represent a large and rapidly growing segment of the fresh produce industry. These commodities have an excellent safety record with respect to incidence of foodborne illness. Nevertheless, surveillance statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that significant and increasing numbers of outbreaks have been associated with fresh fruits and vegetables, or their products. The presence of human pathogens in fresh produce is borne out by U.S. Food and Drug Administration product recall data, and by microbiological surveys of domestically produced and imported commodities. Increased recognition of a food safety problem with produce may reflect greater consumption of fruits and vegetables, more frequent eating out, greater reliance on imports of out-of-season fruits and vegetables from ''third world'' producers, and improved surveillance and reporting methods by public health agencies.
In addition to safety concerns, microbial spoilage of fresh produce represents a source of waste for consumers, and an economic loss to growers, packers, and retailers. Post-harvest decay, bacterial soft rot, and microbial spoilage of fresh-cuts and processed juices are continuing problems.
In recent years, extensive research has been conducted on microbiological problems relating to the safety and spoilage of fruits and vegetables. Active areas of research include incidence of human pathogen contamination, sources of microbial contamination, microbial attachment to produce surfaces, intractable spoilage problems, efficacy of sanitizing treatments for fresh produce, novel interventions for produce disinfection, and methodologies for microbiological evaluation of fruits and vegetables.
In this book, we have attempted a comprehensive examination of these topics, focusing on issues, rather than attempting an encyclopedic compilation of information about all commodities, classes of microorganisms, or categories of spoilage. We have not included certain topics, such as preharvest diseases of produce or production of fermented vegetables, which are adequately covered elsewhere. We have selected chapter authors who are active researchers in their respective fields, and thus bring a working knowledge of current issues, industry practices, and advances in technology.
The book is divided into five sections: (I) Contamination and State of Microflora on Fruits and Vegetables; (II) Microbial Spoilage of Fruits and Vegetables; (III) Food Safety Issues; (IV) Interventions to Reduce Spoilage and Risk of Foodborne Illness; and (V) Microbiological Evaluation of Fruits and Vegetables. Within each section we have grouped chapters that cover specific issues related to the overall topic. For example, Section I contains chapters on sources of microbial contamination, attachment of microorganisms to fresh produce, internalization and infiltration of microorganisms in produce, and stress adaptation by microorganisms and safety of produce.
I wish to thank the individual chapter authors for the authoritative and comprehensive coverage of their respective topics, and my co-editors, Dr. James R. Gorny and Dr. Ahmed E. Yousef, for their assistance in developing the concept and organizational structure of the book, identifying suitable chapter authors, reviewing the completed chapters, and helping me assemble the manuscripts into a form suitable for publication. I also thank Susan Lee, Food Science Editor at Dekker/CRC Press and her editorial staff for their guidance, invaluable help, and patience in working with us on this project. I thank my employer, the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Eastern Regional Research Center, for allowing me the time, and providing the resources, that enabled me to participate in this project. Finally, I must thank my wife for her unlimited patience and understanding during the many long hours when I was attached to the computer and unavailable to meet her needs.
Gerald M. Sapers
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