Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità
Print version ISSN 0021-2571
D'ACUNZO, Francesca et al. Ready-to-eat vegetables production with low-level water chlorination: an evaluation of water quality and of its impact on end products. Ann. Ist. Super. Sanità [online]. 2012, vol.48, n.2, pp.151-160. ISSN 0021-2571. http://dx.doi.org/10.4415/ANN_12_02_08.
INTRODUCTION: We evaluated the microbiological impact of low-level chlorination (1 ppm free chlorine) on the production of ready-to-eat (RTE) vegetables by monitoring the microbiological quality of irrigation and processing water in two production plants over a 4-season period, as well as the microbiological quality of unprocessed vegetables and RTE product. Water samples were also characterized in terms of some chemical and physico-chemical parameters of relevance in chlorination management. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Both producers use water with maximum 1 ppm free chlorine for vegetables rinsing, while the two processes differ by the number of washing cycles. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Salmonella spp and Campylobacter spp were detected once in two different irrigation water samples out of nine from one producer. No pathogens were found in the vegetable samples. As expected, the procedure encompassing more washing cycles performed slightly better in terms of total mesophilic count (TCM) when comparing unprocessed and RTE vegetables of the same batch. However, data suggest that low-level chlorination may be insufficient in preventing microbial build-up in the washing equipment and/or batch-to batch cross-contamination.
Keywords : ready-to-eat vegetables; water chlorination; microbiological decontamination.