Preventing Bacterial Contamination in Produce

When it comes to food safety, bacterial contamination is one of the most severe threats faced by food processors, cold stores, and food storage warehouses. Contamination can be caused by numerous sources, including improperly stored foods and poor hygiene practices. One of the best ways to preventing bacterial contamination on fresh produce is adding a commercial air purification system along all parts of the cold chain. Let’s look at the most common bacteria found in produce and how to prevent bacteria contamination. 

Common Bacteria Found In Produce & Food Processing Facilities 



It is a rod-shaped bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness in humans. It is most commonly found in raw poultry, eggs, meat, and dairy products, but it can also be found in fresh fruits and vegetables. Symptoms of salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

E. coli

It is a Gram-negative bacterium commonly found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and humans. It can be transmitted through contaminated food or water and cause foodborne illness. Symptoms of E. coli infections include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

Listeria monocytogenes

It is a Gram-positive bacterium that can contaminate ready-to-eat foods such as dairy products, deli meats, cold cuts, processed fruits and vegetables, raw seafood, and semi-cooked meats. Consuming can cause a severe form of foodborne illness known as listeriosis. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal upset.

Staphylococcus aureus

It is a Gram-positive bacterium commonly found on humans’ skin, nose, and mouth. It can contaminate food and cause staphylococcal food poisoning, which can be severe in young children, pregnant women, and older adults. Symptoms of this illness include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fever.

Clostridium botulinum

It is a Gram-positive bacteria that produce toxins that can cause a severe foodborne illness known as botulism. The bacterium is commonly found in low-acid canned foods, including vegetables and meats. Symptoms of botulism include double vision, difficulty swallowing and speaking, muscle weakness, and paralysis.

Campylobacter spp

Is a Gram-negative bacteria can cause campylobacteriosis, a foodborne illness characterized by fever, abdominal cramps, and bloody diarrhea. In addition, food contamination can occur through contact with infected animals or waste products.


It is Gram-positive bacteria that can cause enterocolitis, a foodborne illness characterized by fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. These bacteria are found in the intestines of humans and animals and can contaminate food through contact with contaminated feces or other sources.

Yersinia enterocolitica

It is a Gram-negative bacterium found in the intestines of humans and animals and can cause a foodborne illness known as yersiniosis. Symptoms of this illness include fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Psemdomonas aeruginosa

It is a Gram-negative bacterium that can cause gastrointestinal illness in humans. It is commonly found in soil, water, and food processing facilities and can contaminate food through contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment. Symptoms of this illness include diarrhea, nausea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Identifying these bacteria is an essential part of food safety and sanitation. Generally, bacteria can be identified by laboratory culture methods such as Gram staining and biochemical tests. Additionally, molecular techniques such as PCR can quickly identify bacterial pathogens in food samples. 

How Fresh Produce Can Help Prevent Contamination 

Fresh produce is a crucial element of any food processing facility’s hygiene program as it helps to reduce the risk of cross-contamination from airborne or surface sources, as well as to help to keep the contact surfaces free from bacteria. Having aged produce mixed with fresh produce can cause cross-contamination. Keeping contact surfaces free from bacteria means that any potential bacterial contamination is less likely to spread throughout the facility. Process the fresh produce separately from the aged produce with sorting and grading. Regularly washing fruits and vegetables with an approved sanitizer solution like chlorine based also helps control bacterial growth on contact surfaces, reducing the risk of cross-contamination from other foods or activities occurring within the facility. 

Additionally, many food processing plants use specialized equipment that helps reduce cross-contamination from incoming items such as plastic trays, boxes, or pallets used to transport fresh produce into the facility. 

AirROS For Cross-Contamination In Fruit & Vegetables

AirROS is an industrial air and surface purification system that can ORGANICALLY prevent pathogens, mold, viruses, yeast, and bacteria, reduce cross-contamination, and eliminate odor. It utilize and create ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species). First, it kills pathogens and odor as it passes through the air purifier. In addition, it sanitizes the air that comes out of the cleaner, enters the environment, and continues to sanitize all surfaces it contacts. Here are the two-stage process:

Phase 1- Primary Air Cleaning

Placed within your room’s airflow, air from the environment containing microorganisms enters the purifier’s internal chamber. The reaction chamber creates non-thermal plasma and generates ROS. ROS are comprised of 5 short-lived, highly Reactive Oxygen Species:

  • Atomic oxygen O(3P)
  • Singlet oxygen 1O2
  • Hydroxyl radical .OH
  • Superoxide O2-
  • Peroxynitrite ONOO-

These break down carbon-to-carbon bonds that sanitize the air and destroy all bacteria, molds, viruses, and other pathogens as they pass through the reaction chamber.

Phase 2- Secondary Surface & Air Cleaning

Provides Surface sanitation and continued Air sanitation. The purified air now diffused into the environment contains longer-lived Reactive Oxygen Species:

These combine and create Hydrogen Trioxide (H2O3) an Active Antimicrobial formed through the peroxide process. This H2O3 is very effective at sanitizing surfaces and air 24/7.

Following these tips can help keep your food processing facility clean and bacteria-free including preventing bacterial contamination in produce. This will extend the shelf life of your perishables and protect your employees from getting sick. In addition, it will help you create a plan to mitigate food safety issues and give you monitoring and reporting for FSMA & HACCP to prove your success. 

The importance of keeping fresh produce free from contamination cannot be overstated when it comes to preventing and reducing bacterial contamination in food processing facilities. Regular cleaning procedures to remove visible contaminants should be implemented, and using a commercial air purification like AirROS that focuses on removing invisible contaminants from surfaces before handling fresh produce. As well following strict protocols for personnel hygiene, such as handwashing after handling any raw material or product containers prior to entering a work area where fresh produce is handled. Common types of bacterial contamination found in produce and food processing facilities include Salmonella, E Coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium botulinum, Campylobacter spp., Enterococci spp., Yersinia enterocolitica, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. 

keeping these common types of bacterial contamination under control through proper sanitation practices along with regular cleaning procedures focused on removing visible and invisible contaminants from touchpoints within your facility will help you prevent them from becoming a danger to your consumers’ health and safety. If you would like a solution to sanitize surfaces to reduce cross-contamination and prevent bacteria contamination, schedule a call or fill out a form by clicking here.