Good Fruit Grower

September 2016

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44 SEPTEMBER 2016 Good Fruit Grower M any in the tree fruit industry have moved on from the 2014 Listeria monocytogenes illness outbreak associated with caramel apples. They haven't forgotten it, certainly, but they've turned their focus to other issues. Even so, the outbreak was the lead session of the Center for Produce Safety's annual conference this summer in Seattle, as researchers shared lessons learned and information gleaned from the case with food safety professionals from across the world. Seven people died and about 35 were sickened in the outbreak that investiga- tors tied to a specific supplier of Granny Smith and Gala apples in California, marking the first direct tie of fresh whole apples to a serious food safety outbreak. When such outbreaks occur, the first thought is to the victims, and the second thought is to the products involved, said Bob Whitaker of the Produce Marketing Association, who moderated the ses- sion. "Another tragedy is when we fail to recognize the outbreak for what it is, and what it is basically is a failure in our business operations." That breakdown in processes that are designed to deliver healthy products to consumers requires that adjustments be made, he said, to minimize the chance an outbreak will happen again. In the case of the outbreak tied to caramel apples, "there are critical lessons to be learned from this." Here's a rundown of key points: —Apples weren't previously considered a likely source for Listeria, and intact, undamaged apples remain an unlikely cause of listeriosis. However, problem spots remain. Research has shown that the stem end or calyx area is problematic for cleaning and sanitation, as are deep depressions in the fruit that could harbor bacteria, said Kathleen Glass, associate director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Food Research Institute. When the stick was inserted into the apple, in this case, it translocated the Listeria from the surface of the apple to the interior flesh. These points provide an explanation for the Listeria in the caramel apple and highlight the potential for another out- break "unless we look at other interven- tion strategies," she said. —The industry can only have a bet- ter understanding of the prevalence of Listeria in packing houses by adequately monitoring for it. And know that Listeria can hang around longer than you think. Oct. 31 was the last day of operations at the California packing house where the apples in this case were packed. That packer, Bidart Brothers, opened its doors to researchers to help determine the cause of the bacteria, and researchers were able to detect Listeria on different surfaces all the way up to the end of March, said Trevor Suslow, extension research specialist for the University of California-Davis. "Listeria was widely distributed and highly persistent, even under dry condi- tions weeks later," he said. —Packers must consider the end use of their products. In the case of the caramel apples, stor- age temperature was also an issue, with Aftermath of an outbreak Researchers share what they learned from 2014 Listeria contamination of caramel apples. by Shannon Dininny FARM THE SUN ON APPLES Bitter Pit Photosynthesis Color & Fruit Finish ON CHERRIES Size & Firmness Shelf Life Harvest Timing Fruit Maturity Rain Cracking ON PEARS Photosynthesis Cork Spot & Greening / Cal-8 W W W . B I O G R O . C O M L E A R N M O R E A T A G R O N O M I S T S RANDALL MONTGOMERY (509) 439-3018 MIKE HULBERT (360) 770-2374 PGR FRIENDLY! JUST ADD NUE CAL-8 WITH YOUR PGRS! CAL-8 NUE PGR FRIENDLY! QUALITY CA PRODUCT + 35% ORG ACIDS MADE in ITALY MASH • Mark Hollingsworth • 170 White Fences Drive, Irvington, VA 22480 804-480-0000 • • The best professional tools for pruning trees, orchards and vineyards Light and strong. Blade and counter blade are forged. Aluminium parts are life time guaranteed against breakings.

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