Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Oct 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Major Leafy Green Producing Soils.

Persistence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in 32 (16 organically and 16 conventionally managed soils) from California (CA) and Arizona (AZ) was investigated.

Results showed that the longest survival (ttd, time needed to reach detection limit, 100 CFU g-1 dry soil) of E. coli O157:H7 was observed in the soils from Salinas Valley, CA and in organically managed soils from AZ.

Detrended correspondence analysis revealed that the survival profiles in organically managed soils in Yuma, AZ were different from the ones in conventionally managed soils from the same site. Principal component analysis and stepwise regression analysis showed that E. coli O157:H7 survival in soils was negatively correlated with salinity (EC) (P<0.001), while positively correlated with assimilable organic carbon (AOC) and total nitrogen (TN) (P<0.01). Pearson correlation analysis revealed that a greater ttd was associated with a larger δ (time needed for first decimal reduction in E. coli population). EC was negatively and TN was positively correlated (P<0.05) with δ, respectively, suggesting that EC and T-N likely have a direct impact on ttd.

On the other hand, AOC showed a close correlation with p (the shape parameter) that was not directly related to ttd, indicating that AOC might have an indirect effect in the overall survival of E. coli O157:H7 in soils.

Our data showed that AOC and EC significantly affected the survival of E. coli O157:H7 in leafy green producing soils and the development of good agricultural practices (manure/composting/irrigation water source management) in the pre-harvest environment must be followed to minimize foodborne bacterial contamination on fresh produce.