Rutgers to research salmonella growth on tomatoes

By Tom Karst

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(Oct. 27, 12:44 p.m.) Helping foodservice operators and processors understand the progression of salmonella pathogens on fresh cut tomatoes is the aim of research that is soon to be published from New Brunswick, N.J.-based Rutgers University.

“We are developing a mathematical model that will predict the growth rate of salmonella in cut tomatoes as a function of temperature,” said Don Schaffner, extension specialist in food science for Rutgers and director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology.

He said the research will help the foodservice industry manage the risk of salmonella.

“We’re assuming the tomatoes will come to them contaminated at some point, and if you cut them it causes the risk to increase,” he said. “The idea is how critical is temperature control — if the product is temperature abused for two hours at a low temperature or 48 hours at a high temperature — what does that do to the concentration of salmonella.”

Schaffner said the results of the research have been presented at scientific meetings and researchers are currently working on a manuscript. He said the research is expected to be published sometime in 2009.

Meanwhile, he said another research project is looking at a simple quantitative risk assessment for E. coli 0157H7 in leafy greens.

“We have literature data and information from the spinach outbreak of 2006, putting all that information together in a computer model,” he said.

He said the computer model of the system will explore what intervention steps — field controls, washing or temperature control, for example — could do to reduce contamination, and by how much.

“The idea of the computer model is to give people a quick way to look at the effectiveness of various changes in the process,” he said.

Schaffner, working on that project with Gainesville, Fla.-based University of Florida researcher Michele Danyluk, said that study is also expected to be published sometime in 2009.



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