Potential Application of High Hydrostatic Pressure to Eliminate Escherichia Coli O157

Potential application of high hydrostatic pressure to eliminate Escherichia coli O157:H7 on alfalfa sprouted seeds
International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 128, Issue 2, 10 December 2008, Pages 348-353, Hudaa Neetoo, Mu Ye, Haiqiang Chen ,Department of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716-2150, USA

Sprouts eaten raw are increasingly being perceived as hazardous foods as they have been implicated in Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreaks where the seeds were found to be the likely source of contamination. The objective of our study was to evaluate the potential of using high hydrostatic pressure (HHP) technology for alfalfa seed decontamination. Alfalfa seeds inoculated with a cocktail of five strains of E. coli O157:H7 were subjected to pressures of 500 and 600 MPa for 2 min at 20 °C in a dry or wet (immersed in water) state. Immersing seeds in water during pressurization considerably enhanced inactivation of E. coli O157:H7 achieving reductions of 3.5 log and 5.7 log at 500 and 600 MPa, respectively. When dry seeds were pressurized, both pressure levels reduced the counts by < 0.7 log. To test the efficacy of HHP to completely decontaminate seeds whilst meeting the FDA requirement of 5 log reductions, seeds inoculated with a ~ 5 log CFU/g of E. coli O157:H7 were pressure-treated at 600 and 650 MPa at 20 °C for holding times of 2 to 20 min. A > 5 log reduction in the population was achieved when 600 MPa was applied for durations of ≥ 6 min although survivors were still detected by enrichment. When the pressure was stepped up to 650 MPa, the threshold time required to achieve complete elimination was 15 min. Un-inoculated seeds pressure-treated at 650 MPa for 15 min at 20 °C successfully sprouted achieving a germination rate identical to untreated seeds after eight days of sprouting. These results therefore demonstrate the promising application of HHP on alfalfa seeds to eliminate the risk of E. coli O157:H7 infections associated with consumption of raw alfalfa sprouts.