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Microbiological Quality Of Cut Tomatoes Served In Salad Bar

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By Author: Sherry Roberts
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Tomatoes have wide uses as fruits that are edible and often red berry type. The main consumption methods of the fruit include raw form, and as an ingredient in dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. The use of tomatoes and other fruits requires strict observance of their microbial quality since they are prone to microbial contamination. The demand for the ready to eat cut tomatoes is high, and many people use them without strict observance of safety concerns. It is a concern that the safety of the cut ready to eat tomatoes is at stake since many vendors sell them without considering the likelihood of microbial invasion.
Fruits are prone to microbial contamination from a wide range of sources including irrigation water, soil, fertilizer, insects, animal feces, and during post-harvest processing.
The commercial preparation of the fresh-cut produces shredding, slicing, or dicing with or without washing. In most instances, tomatoes undergo slicing during which spoilage and pathogenic microorganisms like Salmonella, Listeria, and Escherichia coli get transferred from the outer surface to the different cut surfaces. The pathogenic microorganisms grow and result in spoilage or other potentially hazardous situations (Pan, 2010). The contact of the blade and the other food contact surfaces may result in increased transfer of microorganisms that compromise the quality and safety of the cut tomatoes. Thus, it is important to study the microbial quality of the cut and ready to eat tomatoes served in a grocery salad bar.
Importance of the Study
The study seeks to assess the microbiological quality of the cut tomatoes served in the Salad bar. The information obtained from the study helps in improving the level of food safety and the quality of food served in the Salad bar. It reveals important information on the type of pathogens and microbes that affect tomatoes and also describes their methods of control. Thus, it is of much benefit to policy makers in food safety and quality inspection.
Principle safety concerns
An important consideration when addressing the safety issues is the incidence of pathogens and the outbreaks associated with specific food products. Cut tomatoes have an association with salmonella outbreaks which is a major safety concern. Tomatoes like other fresh vegetables and fruits have had cases of salmonellosis.
Outbreaks related to cut tomatoes
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been major outbreaks arising from raw produce caused by salmonella. Between 1990 and 2007, there were at least 12 Salmonella outbreaks linked to tomatoes in the United States (CDC, 2008). The contamination occurred during packaging or in the growing field.
Pathogens of concern
Characteristics, Disease caused, and Sources of the Pathogens
Salmonellosis is a food poisoning disease caused by the Salmonella enteric bacterium. It exists in different forms, but the common types in the United States are Salmonella serotype Typhimurium and Salmonella serotype Enteritidis. The source of the pathogens is taking contaminated food. Contamination may occur during food processing or handling due to the unwashed hands of the handler. The pathogen can also be in the feces of some pets or other types hence important to wash hands after contact with them. Salmonella takes 18 to 72 hours for incubation after infection and leads to abdominal pain, diarrhea, chills, fever, nausea, and vomiting (Ávila-Quezada, Sánchez, Gardea-Béjar&Acedo-Félix, 2010).
Escherichia coli is also a pathogen of concern in tomatoes. The bacteria are mostly evident in the environment, foods, and intestines. Most are harmless, but some caused diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and other illnesses. It takes two to five days during incubation and manifests in the form of bloody diarrhea and abdominal pains. The main sources are animal feces. The bacteria can get to food through mishandling of the food products with contaminated hands.
The survival and growth of the pathogens in the ready to eat tomatoes:
Salmonella and E.coli can enter, invade, and migrate in the plant tissues. They can survive for extended periods on fresh produce under certain favorable conditions (Pan, 2010). The most appropriate condition in tomatoes is 20 degrees Celsius. The bacteria can persist in the free environment for extended periods and then invade the tomatoes through soil samples contaminated by irrigation water. Thus, once they migrate to the plant tissues they can survive in the ready to eat tomatoes as long as they have favorable conditions (Ávila-Quezada, Sánchez, Gardea-Béjar&Acedo-Félix, 2010).
The common method of controlling the pathogens on the tomatoes is the use of antimicrobials in the vapor phase. The method controls the pathogens found on the surface of the fresh produce. The method inactivates the pathogens on the tomato surface than between the slices. Other methods include scrupulous adherence to hand hygiene in the food handling stages. All food handlers should observe high standards of safety measures avoid contamination by the pathogens.
Principal microbial spoilage problems:
Many bacteria cause food to spoil. There are processes that help to prevent food spoilage like canning, drying, cooling, and fermenting. Many of the food taken have microbes in the form of flavors and textures due to the bacteria and chemicals produced by feeding on the foods. The common microbes that cause spoilage are bacteria, yeasts, and molds.
Control of microbial contamination and food preservations
The control of the microbial contamination is an important strategy to avoid the adverse effects of the microorganisms. The common methods in use are the use of disinfectants, heating, or cooling below certain temperatures (Lamikanra, 2002). The methods outlined help in food preservation. Disinfectants are chemicals that kill the microbes and lift them above a surface for safe removal. Heating and cooling subject the microorganisms to undesirable conditions, hence cannot survive.
The adherence to high-quality safety standards when handling food substances is a major challenge to many people. The fresh produce is prone to many contaminants and thus requires appropriate handling procedures. Tomatoes can be taken fresh by cutting into slices that subject the user to microorganisms. Salmonella and E.coli are common contaminants to fresh produce like tomatoes, but many people do not observe safety when using them. Thus, the control of outbreaks of the pathogens becomes a challenge unless people take individual responsibilities. It is important to carry out research on the effective methods of controlling the contamination of the fresh produce during packaging and usage.
The fresh produce is susceptible to disease organisms due to increased rate of respiration after harvesting. Thus, future research work should focus on the use of better preservation techniques to address the problem. Extensive research on the use of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) has been in place though the research has been inconclusive. The quality microbial assessment should focus on the evaluation of the impact of handling, processing, and treatment procedures in the maintenance of the quality and extending the shelf-life of the fresh-cut tomatoes.
The new areas of investigation include microbial, physiological and sensory quality in the determination of shelf-life of the fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Thus, the research will help to develop enhanced approaches for maintaining good quality and safety of the fresh products.

Ávila-Quezada G., Sánchez E., Gardea-Béjar AA.&Acedo-Félix E. (2010) Salmonella spp. And Escherichia coli: Survival and growth of plant tissue: New Zealand Journal
of Crop and Horticultural Science, 38:2, 47-55, DOI: 10.1080/01140671003767834
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015) Escherichia Coli (E.coli) Outbreaks and General Information,
Lamikanra O.(2002) Fresh-Cut Fruits and Vegetables: Science, Technology, and Market, CRC Press, 2002. ISBN 1420031872, 9781420031874
Pan W. (2010) Modeling The Growth Of Salmonella Spp. On Cut Tomatoes, Graduate School- New Brunswick Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Thesis Paper

Sherry Roberts is the author of this paper. A senior editor at Melda Research in cheap reliable essay writing service if you need a similar paper you can place your order for a custom research paper from cheap assignment services.

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