Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 viability on leafy green vegetables by treatment with a bacteriophage mixture and trans-cinnamaldehyde

Stelios Viazis, Luna Akhtar, Joellen M Feirtag, Francisco Diez-Gonzalez

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108 Scopus citations


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 has been recognized as a major foodborne pathogen responsible for frequent gastroenteritis outbreaks. Phages and essential oils can be used as a natural antimicrobial method to reduce bacterial pathogens from the food supply. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of a bacteriophage cocktail, BEC8, alone and in combination with the essential oil trans-cinnameldehyde (TC) on the viability of a mixture of EHEC O157:H7 strains applied on whole baby romaine lettuce and baby spinach leaves. The EHEC O157:H7 strains used were NalR mutants of EK27, ATCC 43895, and 472. Exponentially growing cells from tryptic soy (TS) broth cultures were spot inoculated on leaves and dried. EHEC cells were placed at low, medium, and high inoculum levels (104, 105, and 106 CFU/mL, respectively). Appropriate controls, BEC8 (approx. 106 PFU/leaf), and TC (0.5% v/v) were applied on treated leaves. The leaves were incubated at 4, 8, 23, and 37 °C in Petri dishes with moistened filter papers. EHEC survival was determined using standard plate count on nalidixic acid (50 μg/mL) Sorbitol MacConkey agar. No survivors were detected when both leaves were treated with BEC8 or TC individually at low inoculum levels after 24 h at 23 and 37 °C. When the EHEC inoculum size increased and/or incubation temperature decreased, the efficacy of BEC8 and TC decreased. However, when the two treatments were combined, no survivors were detected after 10 min at all temperatures and inoculum levels on both leafy greens. These results indicated that the BEC8/TC combination was highly effective against EHEC on both leafy greens. This combination could potentially be used as an antimicrobial to inactivate EHEC O157:H7 and reduce their incidence in the food chain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-157
Number of pages9
JournalFood Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Thomas Whittam (STEC Center, Michigan State University) for providing the EHEC EK27 strain and the Minnesota Department of Health for providing the 472 strain. We appreciate the guidance and supportive methodology provided by Dr. Elizabeth Kutter of Evergreen State College, WA. We are thankful to Dr. Lawrence Goodridge for sharing his phage isolates. We are also grateful for the support provided by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Integrated Organic Program under award No. 2007-51300-03796 .

Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Bacteriophages
  • Enterohemorrhagic E. coli
  • Escherichia coli O157:H7
  • Lettuce
  • Produce safety
  • Spinach
  • Trans-cinnamaldehyde


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