Microbial safety of fresh produce is a priority. Of concern are new vulnerabilities to fresh produce and to produce distribution introduced by fresh cut preparation. The objectives are to develop new understanding and interventions at the molecular level of bacterial attachment, survival, and multiplication in produce to limit relevant contamination while maintaining quality/shelflife and to develop bacterial genome fingerprinting strategies to better detect, distinguish, define, and predict relevant contaminations.
Team approach will be taken involving microbiologists, plant pathologists, food technologists,and postharvest biologists. The capacities of human pathogenic bacteria, including coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter spp. And Salmonella spp, to attach/multiply/survive on fresh produce, in particular fresh-cut produce, will be studied. Treatments will be devised to limit attachment and multiplication and/or survival of pathogens while maintaining product quality. Also, a unique aspect will be to develop genome fingerprinting capacities of high sensitivity/specificity and low cost to better learn from contaminations, past and future. <P> A database will be initiated developing DNA signatures to optimally detect, distinguish, and predict fresh produce contaminations. Particular benefits to more fully understanding contaminations of fresh produce will be improved HACCP and improved responses to safeguard consumer confidence. Technical support for regulatory approval of both postharvest treatments and field use of genome fingerprinting will be provided.