Application of microbial risk assessment to the development of standards for enteric pathogens in water used to irrigate fresh produce

Scott W. Stine, Inhong Song, Christopher Y. Choi, Charles P. Gerba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Microbial contamination of the surfaces of cantaloupe, iceberg lettuce, and bell peppers via contact with irrigation water was investigated to aid in the development of irrigation water quality standards for enteric bacteria and viruses. Furrow and subsurface drip irrigation methods were evaluated with the use of nonpathogenic surrogates, coliphage PRD1, and Escherichia coli ATCC 25922. The concentrations of hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Salmonella in irrigation water necessary to achieve a 1:10,000 annual risk of infection, the acceptable level of risk used for drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, were calculated with a quantitative microbial risk assessment approach. These calculations were based on the transfer of the selected nonpathogenic surrogates to fresh produce via irrigation water, as well as previously determined preharvest inactivation rates of pathogenic microorganisms on the surfaces of fresh produce. The risk of infection was found to be variable depending on type of crop, irrigation method, and days between last irrigation event and harvest. The worst-case scenario, in which produce is harvested and consumed the day after the last irrigation event and maximum exposure is assumed, indicated that concentrations of 2.5 CFU/100 ml of Salmonella and 2.5 × 10-5 most probable number per 100 ml of HAV in irrigation water would result in an annual risk of 1:10,000 when the crop was consumed. If 14 days elapsed before harvest, allowing for die-off of the pathogens, the concentrations were increased to 5.7 × 103 Salmonella per 100 ml and 9.9 × 10-3 HAV per 100 ml.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-918
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of food protection
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology


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