Evaluation of a Polymerase Chain Reaction Based System for Sprouts and Other Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Evaluation of a polymerase chain reaction-based system for detection of Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria spp., and Listeria monocytogenes on fresh fruits and vegetables.
J Food Prot 2001 Jun;64(6):788-95
Shearer AE, Strapp CM, Joerger RD.
Department of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark 19717, USA.

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based detection system, BAX, was evaluated for its sensitivity in detecting Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria sp., and Listeria monocytogenes on fresh produce. Fifteen different types of produce (alfalfa sprouts, green peppers, parsley, white cabbage, radishes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, mango, apples, and oranges) were inoculated, in separate studies, with Salmonella Enteritidis, E. coli O157:H7, and L. monocytogenes down to the predicted level of 1 CFU per 25-g sample. Detection by BAX was compared to recovery of the inoculated bacteria by culture methods according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM). BAX was essentially as sensitive as the culture-based method in detecting Salmonella Enteritidis and L. monocytogenes and more sensitive than the culture-based method for the detection of E. coli O157:H7 on green pepper, carrot, radish, and sprout samples. Detection of the pathogenic bacteria in samples spiked with a predicted number of less than 10 CFU was possible for most produce samples, but both methods failed to detect L. monocytogenes on carrot samples and one of two mushroom and onion samples spiked with less than 100 CFU. Both BAX and the culture method were also unable to consistently recover low numbers of E. coli O157:H7 from alfalfa sprouts. The PCR method allowed detection of Salmonella Enteritidis, E. coli O157:H7, and L. monocytogenes at least 2 days earlier than the conventional culture methods.