Compost is organic material that has been degraded into a nutrient-stabilized humus-like substance through intense microbial activity, which can provide essential plant nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) to aid in the growth of fruits and vegetables. Compost can be generated from animal waste feedstocks; these can contain human pathogens, which can be inactivated through the heat and microbial competition promoted during the composting process. Outbreaks of infections caused by bacterial pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes on fruit and vegetable commodities consumed raw emphasize the importance of minimizing the risk of pathogenic contamination on produce commodities. This review article investigates factors that affect the reduction and survival of bacterial foodborne pathogens during the composting process. Interactions with indigenous microorganisms, carbon:nitrogen ratios, and temperature changes influence pathogen survival, growth, and persistence in finished compost. Understanding the mechanisms of pathogen survival during the composting process and mechanisms that reduce pathogen populations can minimize the risk of pathogen contamination in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables.
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