Competitive Inhibition May Enhance Safety Of Minimally Processed Fruits And Vegetables

emperature abuse of MPR foods, the biocontrol culture (LAB) should grow, and prevent the growth of pathogenic microorganisms by competitive inhibition," Breidt and Fleming wrote.

Inhibitory metabolites produced by lactic acid bacteria include organic acids, hydrogen peroxide, enzymes, and bacteriocins. They are produced during the LAB metabolism of sugar (sucrose, fructose, or glucose) naturally found in or added to foods. The type of metabolite produced depends on the type of LAB in foods and their metabolic response to them.

"Biocontrol cultures will likely be product specific, as growth of bacteria in plant materials may be affected by the availability of nutrients and naturally present inhibitors," Breidt and Fleming wrote.

Washing procedures, including the addition of chlorine or other compounds to the wash water, generally have not been successful in reducing microorganisms on minimally processed fruits and vegetables, the authors noted.

"The ineffectiveness of washing or sanitizers to remove bacteria from produce is likely due to microorganisms located in protected regions near the surface of the plant material," Breidt and Fleming wrote.

Studies with endive leaves and salad products have shown that lactic acid bacteria can prevent the growth of pathogens like Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, and S. aureus. Therefore, products for salad bars and fresh-cut, pre-packaged salads sold at retail may be good applications for these cultures. Competitive inhibition with LAB also shows great potential for enhancing the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

However, Breidt and Fleming noted that the use of protective cultures should only supplement good manufacturing practices, not substitute for the proper handling and packaging of produce.

A current application of competitive inhibition is the "Wisconsin process" for ensuring the safety of bacon. This process uses LAB cultures with reduced levels of nitrite to prevent

Contact: Angela Dansby
Institute of Food Technologists

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