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Foods 2013, 2(4), 488-498; doi:10.3390/foods2040488

Microbial Profile of Soil-Free versus In-Soil Grown Lettuce and Intervention Methodologies to Combat Pathogen Surrogates and Spoilage Microorganisms on Lettuce

Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-3028, USA
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Received: 16 August 2013 / Revised: 23 October 2013 / Accepted: 1 November 2013 / Published: 11 November 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food Microbiology and Safety)
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Abstract

Aquaponics is an effective method to practice sustainable agriculture and is gaining popularity in the US; however, the microbial safety of aquaponically grown produce needs to be ascertained. Aquaponics is a unique marriage of fish production and soil-free produce (e.g., leafy greens) production. Fish are raised in fresh water tanks that are connected to water filled beds where fruits and vegetables are grown. The fish bi-products create nutrient-rich water that provides the key elements for the growth of plants and vegetables. The objective of this study was to perform a comparative analysis of the microbial safety and quality of aquaponic lettuce and soil grown lettuce (conventional, bagged, certified organic, and field lettuce). Following this, an intervention study was performed to combat foodborne pathogen surrogates (Salmonella and E. coli), spoilage, and fecal microorganisms using 2.5% acetic acid. The results of the comparative analysis study showed that aquaponically grown lettuce had significantly lower concentration of spoilage and fecal microorganisms compared to in-soil grown lettuce. The intervention study showed that diluted vinegar (2.5% acetic acid) significantly reduced Salmonella, E. coli, coliforms, and spoilage microorganisms on fresh lettuce by 2 to 3 log CFU/g. Irrespective of growing methods (in-soil or soilless), it is crucial to incorporate good agricultural practices to reduce microbial contamination on fresh produce. The intervention employed in this study can be proposed to small farmers and consumers to improve quality and safety of leafy greens. View Full-Text
Keywords: organic produce; aquaponics; microbial quality; interventions; soilless produce; lettuce; Salmonella; E. coli organic produce; aquaponics; microbial quality; interventions; soilless produce; lettuce; Salmonella; E. coli
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Sirsat, S.A.; Neal, J.A. Microbial Profile of Soil-Free versus In-Soil Grown Lettuce and Intervention Methodologies to Combat Pathogen Surrogates and Spoilage Microorganisms on Lettuce. Foods 2013, 2, 488-498.

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