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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Processing of leafy vegetables matters: Damage and microbial community structure from field to bag

Mulaosmanovic, Emina; Lindblom, Tobias; Windstam, Sofia; Bengtsson, Marie; Rosberg, Anna Karin; Mogren, Lars; Alsanius, Beatrix;

Abstract

Leafy vegetables undergo abiotic and biotic stresses, and a series of processing steps that cause mechanical injury. Breaching the epidermis alters phyllosphere structural and nutrient conditions, resulting in successional shifts in leaf microbiota and entry of human pathogens. This study examined damage during processing of baby leaves (Swiss chard, spinach) and concomitant microbial successional events. Machine-harvesting, washing, and packaging caused major phyllosphere perturbations, with increasing levels of leaf damage. Older leaves showed most damage, but plant species was influential. Diversity estimates of bacterial and fungal communities revealed shifts in microbiota post-harvest, particularly after the washing step. Relative abundance of Pseudomonadaceae and Enterobacteriaceae increased from field to bag. Bacterial species specific to different harvesting and processing steps replaced core microbiota species. While processing is unavoidable, procedures that mitigate leaf damage can enhance shelf-life and food safety.

Keywords

damage; Escherichia coli O157:H7; microbiota; post-harvest; spinach; swiss chard

Published in

Food Control

2021, volume: 125, article number: 107894

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Windstam, Sofia
State University of New York at Oswego (SUNY Oswego)
Windstam, Sofia
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG2 Zero hunger

UKÄ Subject classification

Food Science
Microbiology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2021.107894

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/110564