Cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria and Salmonella have caused large scale of foodborne illness outbreaks in recent years. Prior research has shown that heat treatment can be used to reduce microbial contaminates on fruit surfaces. However, no study has evaluated the use of kitchen steamers for inactivating foodborne pathogens on cantaloupes. The purpose of this study was to test the sanitization efficacy of three models of electrical kitchen steamers (steamer‐A, ‐B, and ‐C) for eliminating foodborne pathogens on cantaloupe surfaces. Fresh cantaloupes were spot‐inoculated with Listeria monocytogens or Salmonella enterica and kept at 4 or 22 °C for a day before steam treatment for ≤100 s. Test results show that the surface of nonrefrigerated cantaloupes can be decontaminated (with ≥5.0 log reduction) within 60 s using any of the tested steamers. For refrigerated fruits (4 °C), however, only two steamers (steamer‐B and ‐C) decontaminated the cantaloupes within 60 s and they were unable to render the pathogens undetected in enriched samples. Salmonella was more susceptible than Listeria to steam treatment. In conclusion, electrical kitchen steamers can be utilized by consumers to sanitize whole cantaloupes prior to consumption. However, fruit temperature and steamer selection can influence the heating time required for surface sanitization.
Melons with netted rind surfaces, such as cantaloupes, likely have caused more outbreaks because their surface shelters pathogens from being eliminated by conventional washing and sanitization. As whole melons marketed at retail stores typically are not treated due to shelf‐life considerations, the safety of untreated melons can be of concern to consumers, especially among at‐risk populations. This study focused on the evaluation of the use of commercially available kitchen steamers in eliminating foodborne pathogens on cantaloupe surfaces. This study showed that kitchen steamers can be utilized to sanitize whole cantaloupes and also at household level, be a highly beneficial for the average concerned consumer to reduce the risk of pathogens on produce before consumption.