Growth Kinetics of Listeria monocytogenes in Cut Produce
Cut produce continues to constitute a significant portion of the fresh fruit and vegetables sold directly to consumers. As such, the safety of these items during storage, handling, and display remains a concern. Cut tomatoes, cut leafy greens, and cut melons, which have been studied in relation to their ability to support pathogen growth, have been specifically identified as needing temperature control for safety. Data are needed on the growth behavior of foodborne pathogens in other types of cut produce items that are commonly offered for retail purchase and are potentially held without temperature control. This study assessed the survival and growth of Listeria monocytogenes in cut produce items that are commonly offered for retail purchase, specifically broccoli, green and red bell peppers, yellow onions, canned green and black olives, fresh green olives, cantaloupe flesh and rind, avocado pulp, cucumbers, and button mushrooms. The survival of L. monocytogenes strains representing serotypes 1/2a, 1/2b, and 4b was determined on the cut produce items for each strain individually at 5, 10, and 25°C for up to 720 h. The modified Baranyi model was used to determine the growth kinetics (the maximum growth rates and maximum population increases) in the L. monocytogenes populations. The products that supported the most rapid growth of L. monocytogenes, considering the fastest growth and resulting population levels, were cantaloupe flesh and avocado pulp. When stored at 25°C, the maximum growth rates for these products were 0.093 to 0.138 log CFU/g/h and 0.130 to 0.193 log CFU/g/h, respectively, depending on the strain. Green olives and broccoli did not support growth at any temperature. These results can be used to inform discussions surrounding whether specific time and temperature storage conditions should be recommended for additional cut produce items.