The effectiveness of treating irrigation water using ultraviolet radiation or sulphuric acid fertilizer for reducing generic Escherichia coli on fresh produce—a controlled intervention trial

W. Beauvais, A. K. Englishbey, C. M. Marconi, U. Cholula, A. M. Belias, M. Wemette, J. Usaga, J. J. Churey, R. W. Worobo, J. Enciso, J. R. Anciso, K. Nightingale, R. Ivanek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aims: The aims of this study were to: (i) estimate the effectiveness of ultraviolet radiation (UV) and sulphuric acid-based fertilizer (SA), at reducing levels of generic Escherichia coli in surface irrigation water and on produce and surface soil in open produce fields; and (ii) describe the population dynamics of generic E. coli in produce fields. Methods and Results: Spinach and cantaloupe plots were randomly assigned to control, UV or SA treatment groups. Irrigation water was inoculated with Rifampicin-resistant E. coli prior to treatment. More than 75% of UV- and SA-treated tank water samples had counts below the detection limit, compared to a mean count of 3·3 Log10 CFU per ml before treatment. Levels of Rifampicin-resistant E. coli in soil and produce both increased and decreased over 10–15 days after irrigation, depending on the plot and time-period. Conclusions: UV and SA treatments effectively reduce the levels of E. coli in surface irrigation water. Their effectiveness at reducing contamination on produce was dependent on environmental conditions. Applying wait-times after irrigation and prior to harvest is not a reliable means of mitigating against contaminated produce. Significance and Impact of the Study: The results are of timely importance for the agricultural industry as new FSMA guidelines require producers to demonstrate a low microbial load in irrigation water or allow producers to apply a wait-time to mitigate the risk of contaminated produce.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • agriculture
  • food safety
  • microbial contamination
  • ultraviolet applications
  • water

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