Department of Food Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Muş Alparslan University, Muş 49250, Turkey; Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, Lake Alfred, Florida 33850, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Agricultural water is considered as one of the main contamination source for produce prior to harvest. The purpose of study was to evaluate the fate of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), and generic E. coli in Central Florida agricultural surface water at different temperatures and the potential use of EPA Worst Case water as a standardized media. Cocktails of STEC (O145, O104, O111, O103, O157), and generic E. coli K-12 were inoculated into agricultural surface water samples (non-sterile and sterilized) and EPA Worst Case water, and enumerated for up to 168 days. E. coli was held at 15 and 25 ± 1 °C. Tested microorganisms decreased most rapidly in non-sterile surface water. At day 168, E. coli populations decreased to ≤2.5 log CFU/100 ml in non-sterile surface water and were 4.8 ≤ and ≤ 8.5 log CFU/100 ml in sterile surface water and EPA Worst Case water. Populations were significantly (P ≤ .05) higher in sterile surface water and EPA Worst Case water at all sampling points starting from Day 28. Rate of declines in non-sterile surface waters were between 32.8 and 50 days at both tested temperatures and microorganisms. Addition of cycloheximide to non-sterile surface waters resulted in no significant effect on behavior of E. coli populations. Monitoring generic E. coli (represented by K-12) population changes is a reasonable indicator of STEC survival in agricultural water. EPA Worst Case water is a suitable standard control for surface water microcosms.