The influence of modified-atmosphere packaging, storage temperature, and time on survival and growth of Escherichia coli O157:H7 inoculated onto shredded lettuce, sliced cucumber, and shredded carrot was determined. Growth of psychotrophic and mesophilic microorganisms and changes in pH and sensory qualities of vegetables, as judged by subjective evaluation, were also monitored. Packaging under an atmosphere containing 3% oxygen and 97% nitrogen had no apparent effect on populations of E. coli O157:H7, psychotrophs, or mesophiles. Populations of viable E. coli O157:H7 declined on vegetables stored at 5 degrees C and increased on vegetables stored at 12 and 21 degrees C for up to 14 days. The most rapid increases in populations of E. coli O157:H7 occurred on lettuce and cucumbers stored at 21 degrees C. These results suggest that an unknown factor(s) associated with carrots may inhibit the growth of E. coli O157:H7. The reduction in pH of vegetables was correlated with initial increases in populations of E. coli O157:H7 and naturally occurring microfloras. Eventual decreases in E. coli O157:H7 in some samples, e.g., those stored at 21 degrees C, are attributed to the toxic effect of accumulated acids. Changes in visual appearance of vegetables were not influenced substantially by growth of E. coli O157:H7. The ability of E. coli O157:H7 to growth on raw salad vegetables subjected to processing and storage conditions simulating those routinely used in commercial practice has been demonstrated
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