Efficacy of Washing and Sanitizing Methods for Disinfection of Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Products

Gerald M. Sapers

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center, 600 East Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, PA 19038, U.S.A.

Article history:
Received October 10, 2001
Accepted November 8, 2001

Key words:

fruit and vegetable products, washing and sanitizing treatments, pathogene detachment and inactivation


In recent years, as a consequence of the increasing number of produce-related outbreaks of food-borne illness, greater attention has been given to interventions that kill or remove human pathogens on fresh produce. A key goal of washing and sanitizing treatments, therefore, is removal or inactivation of such pathogens. However, published information suggests that conventional washing and sanitizing methods, even using newer sanitizing agents, are not capable of reducing microbial populations by more than 90 or 99 %, although greater efficacy is required to assure product safety. The response of microorganisms to washing and sanitizing treatments will depend in part on the conditions of contamination that affect attachment and survival on produce surfaces. Major factors limiting decontamination efficacy include strength and rapidity of microbial attachment, inaccessibility of attachment sites, attachment and growth in cuts and punctures, internalization of microbial contaminants within plant tissues, and biofilm formation. The performance of conventional produce washing equipment and washing and sanitizing agents in reducing microbial loads is examined. Recent improvements in washing and sanitizing technology are described. New approaches to washing and sanitizing produce that overcome the barriers limiting human pathogen detachment and inactivation are examined.

*Corresponding author: 

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