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International Journal of Food Microbiology
Volume 364, 2022, 109531

Dynamics of Listeria monocytogenes and the microbiome on fresh-cut cantaloupe and romaine lettuce during storage at refrigerated and abusive temperatures

Ganyu Gua, Brenda Kroftb, Marina Lichtenwalda,1, Yaguang Luoa

Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory, USDA ARS, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) outbreaks and recalls associated with fresh produce in recent years have heightened concerns and demands from industry and consumers to more effectively mitigate the contamination risk of this foodborne pathogen on fresh produce. In this study, the growth of Lm and indigenous bacteria on fresh-cut cantaloupe and romaine lettuce held at refrigerated (4 °C) and abusive (10–24 °C) temperatures was determined by both culture dependent and independent methods. Composition and dynamics of bacterial communities on Lm inoculated and non-inoculated samples were analyzed by 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing. Fresh-cut cantaloupe provided favorable growth conditions for Lm proliferation (1.7 and >6 log increase at refrigerated and abusive temperatures, respectively) to overtake indigenous bacteria. The Lm population also increased on fresh-cut lettuce, but the growth rate was lower than that of the total mesophilic bacteria, resulting in 0.4 and >2 log increase at refrigerated and abusive temperatures. Microbial diversity of fresh-cut cantaloupe was significantly lower than that of fresh-cut romaine lettuce. The Shannon index of microbial communities on cantaloupe declined after storage, but it was not significantly changed on lettuce samples. Shifts in the bacterial microbiome on cantaloupe were mainly affected by Lm inoculation, while both inoculation and storage temperature played significant roles on lettuce bacterial communities. Multiple indigenous bacteria, including Leuconostoc and Weissella spp., were negatively correlated to Lm abundance on romaine lettuce, and were determined by bioassay as potential anti-listerial species. Data derived from this study contribute to better understanding of the relationship between Lm and indigenous microbiota on fresh-cut produce during storage.

Keywords: Listeriosis, indigenous microbes, 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing, Produce, food safety.

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