Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients that are essential for a healthy lifestyle. However, they also harbor an extensive array of microorganisms such as bacteria, which can be beneficial, neutral, or pathogenic. Foodborne pathogens can contaminate produce at any stage from the farm to the consumer’s table. Appropriate washing techniques using sanitizers can reduce the risk of pathogen contamination. Issues related to maintaining concentration, efficacy, and other problems have been a challenge for the food industry and, when left unresolved, have led to different outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. In this study, the efficacy of a lytic bacteriophage cocktail was examined for its ability to infect and reduce the contamination of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7), in media with a high organic load, using a microplate technique. The study was conducted for 3 h to determine if the bacteriophage cocktail could reduce the pathogen in the presence of a high organic load. A significant (p < 0.05) reduction in the population of E. coli O157:H7 was observed, representing a 99.99% pathogen reduction at the end of 3 h. Fresh spinach leaves were washed in sterile potable or organic water (~9000 ppm organic load) containing E. coli O157:H7 and a bacteriophage cocktail to study the effectiveness of bacteriophages against the foodborne pathogen. Results indicated that the bacteriophage significantly (p < 0.05) reduced the contamination of E. coli O157:H7 in both situations. The study also demonstrated the bacteriophages’ ability to infect and reduce the pathogen in an organic-rich environment. This characteristic differs from commercially available sanitizers that have demonstrated a tendency to bind with the available organic load. Thus, these studies highlight the advantage of employing bacteriophages during produce wash to eliminate foodborne pathogen contamination on fruits and vegetables.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Microorganisms, v. 9, issue 3, 544.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Included in

Food Science Commons