5 years ago

Quantitative contamination assessment of Escherichia coli in baby spinach primary production in Spain: Effects of weather conditions and agricultural practices

A quantitative microbial contamination model of Escherichia coli during primary production of baby spinach was developed. The model included only systematic contamination routes (e.g. soil and irrigation water) and it was used to evaluate the potential impact of weather conditions, agricultural practices as well as bacterial fitness in soil on the E. coli levels present in the crop at harvest. The model can be used to estimate E. coli contamination of baby spinach via irrigation water, via soil splashing due to irrigation water or rain events, and also including the inactivation of E. coli on plants due to solar radiation during a variable time of culturing before harvest. Seasonality, solar radiation and rainfall were predicted to have an important impact on the E. coli contamination. Winter conditions increased E. coli prevalence and levels when compared to spring conditions. As regards agricultural practices, both water quality and irrigation system slightly influenced E. coli levels on baby spinach. The good microbiological quality of the irrigation water (average E. coli counts in positive water samples below 1 log/100mL) could have influenced the differences observed among the tested agricultural practices (water treatment and irrigation system). This quantitative microbial contamination model represents a preliminary framework that assesses the potential impact of different factors and intervention strategies affecting E. coli concentrations at field level. Taking into account that E. coli strains may serve as a surrogate organism for enteric bacterial pathogens, obtained results on E. coli levels on baby spinach may be indicative of the potential behaviour of these pathogens under defined conditions.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0168160517302969

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