Temperature is arguably the most important factor affecting microbial proliferation in fresh-cut produce. In this study, growth of Listeria monocytogenes in diced onions and celery and Salmonella Typhimurium in diced tomatoes was determined in modified atmosphere packages and snap-fit containers using three fluctuating temperature scenarios for transport, retail storage, and display. As expected, L. monocytogenes growth in diced onions and celery varied depending on the extent of temperature abuse, with exposure to high and intermediate temperature-abuse scenarios generally being growth supportive. A Baranyi primary model with a square-root secondary model for maximum growth rate, and a linear model for maximum population density, were used to estimate Listeria growth under fluctuating temperature. Accuracy and acceptability of the model prediction were evaluated in terms of root mean square error (RMSE) and acceptable prediction zone (APZ), respectively. Overall, growth predictions for L. monocytogenes were more accurate for celery (RMSE, 0.28 to 0.47) than onions (RMSE, 0.42 to 1.53) under the fluctuating temperature scenarios tested. However, both predictions yielded APZ values that ranged from 82 to 100% for celery and 36 to 78% for onions. In contrast, Salmonella Typhimurium populations increased more than 1 log CFU/g in diced tomatoes under the three fluctuating temperature scenarios studied. Overall, these diced products packaged under a high-oxygen atmosphere showed decreased pathogen growth compared with product stored in a passive modified atmosphere. Findings from this study will be particularly useful in assessing the risk associated with consumption of diced celery, tomatoes, and onions and in designing effective packaging strategies to minimize pathogen growth in fresh-cut produce.
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