Twenty (or more) years ago, when I was reading the UMass paper, the Collegian, on a daily basis, I wasn’t looking for articles on Salmonella.  The paper, however, recently reported on Professor Lynne McLandsborough’s investigation of how and why Salmonella tainted tomatoes might reach the marketplace.

The study follows an outbreak three years ago that was originally pinned on tomatoes, before health agencies fingered jalapeno peppers as the source.   The 2008 outbreak of Salmonella St. Paul infections sickened at least 1,400 people.   

McLandsborough explained that a key component of the study was trying to replicate the conditions between the farm and the table:

“I started thinking about it and, you know, produce, you can take a piece of lettuce and smash it down and it breaks, it becomes a very different environment. So we have come up with a system that’s going to be kind of non-invasive,” said McLandsborough.

The system, now a prototype, is a chute design, “like a slide,” said McLandsborough. The professor and her team of researchers plan to contaminate the surface of the slide with Salmonella and roll the tomatoes over it to see if the contraption helps tomatoes to resist contamination. They will also be testing different plastics, such as those used for harvest bins and gloves, to find out which surfaces Salmonella thrives on and which levels of abrasion make tomatoes most vulnerable to Salmonella.

Good to see a fellow Minuteman (Minutewoman?) working for food safety.