The increased consumption of fresh-cut produce in the last few years has resulted in an increase in the reported number of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with these products. During growth, harvest, transportation, and further processing and handling, fruits and vegetables can be contaminated with pathogens from human, animal, and environmental sources. Many pathogens have the ability to form biofilms on plant tissues that are able to survive in harsh environments; thus the efficacy of commonly used sanitizers may decrease. Pathogens of greatest concern are Escherichia coli O157:H7 (mainly on leafy green vegetables) and Salmonella (sprouts, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and others). Preharvest strategies application such as Good Agricultural Practices may help to reduce the risk of initial contamination; however, effective decontamination technologies on fresh produce are required for controlling foodborne diseases. Postharvest washing of minimally processed fruits and vegetables, usually with chlorine, is an important method for pathogen reduction; though its effectiveness is limited and also may pose potential adverse health effects. In this context, alternative methods for pathogen control in fresh-cut produce have been developed, including several chemicals, natural antimicrobials, ultrasound, UV-C, pulsed light, irradiation, and also biocontrol strategies. The advantages and disadvantages of using these technologies and their effectiveness against pathogen bacteria in fresh produce are described in this chapter.
Research studies conclude that the treatments recommended for decontami-nation of fresh fruits and vegetables are able to reduce but not eliminate foodborne pathogens from plant tissue. Hence, emphasis must continue to be placed upon the prevention of produce contamination along the complete production chain. However, more attention should be paid to the search for naturally occurring substances and their combinations with physical obstacles to enhance the safety of fresh and minimally processed fruits and vegetables.