Battling microbes: disinfecting water during fresh-cut lettuce processing

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Fresh leafy greens like lettuce are often consumed raw and can be contaminated by foodborne pathogens. Washing fresh-cut lettuce can help alleviate foodborne outbreaks and diffuse cases, but the washing process must be controlled to avoid pathogenic cross-contamination. The thesis aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of chemical disinfection of the water during fresh-cut lettuce washing to reduce pathogenic cross-contamination. First, the effectiveness of chlorine, chlorine dioxide (ClO2), ozone, and peracetic acid (PAA) during produce processing was studied along with legislation and disinfection by-product production. Next, the effectiveness of sodium hypochlorite, ClO2, and a silver-copper solution to reduce Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium and pathogenic Escherichia coli were assessed on the laboratory scale. Results showed that the water’s organic load, wash water temperature, and pathogenic characteristics influenced the effectiveness. Then, the effectiveness of ClO2 (5 mg/L and 3 mg/L) on reducing supplemented nonpathogenic E. coli during fresh-cut lettuce washing at the industrial scale was studied. Also, the effectiveness of a PAA solution (75 mg/L) on reducing supplemented nonpathogenic E. coli during fresh-cut lettuce washing at the laboratory and industrial scales was studied. The results showed that laboratory experiments disinfecting water with ClO2 and a PAA solution had similar findings, which were also confirmed at the industrial scale. Finally, a multi-criteria decision analysis was applied to a case study to determine the best control strategy during fresh-cut lettuce processing when disinfection was applied directly in the wash tank. Results showed that PAA was the overall preferred control strategy. This proposed disinfection strategy appears to be the right balance between safety and effective fresh-cut produce disinfection

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Zwietering, Marcel, Promotor
  • van der Fels-Klerx, Ine, Promotor
Award date9 Apr 2021
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463956963
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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