Irrigation water can serve as a vehicle for transporting pathogenic microorganisms, and numerous cases of bacterial infections from consumption of irrigated fresh produce have been reported in recent years. Chlorine-based disinfectants applied when produce is packed are widely used to control microorganisms. When applied properly, the chlorine products are effective. However, hazardous disinfection breakdown products can be formed, and chlorine disinfectants have high oxidant activity that can affect produce quality and pose a risk to food handlers. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs) are a disinfectant alternative for the washing of fruits and vegetables. They can control a great number of microorganisms, have low toxicity when used at recommended doses, and are stable in storage. The purpose of this work was to assess the disinfectant activity of QACs against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus under worst-case and average-case turbidity conditions, (2 and 100 nephelometric units); two disinfectant concentrations (100 and 200 mg/L; and two contact times (30 and 120 seconds). Our research showed that QACs were effective against both bacteria. The percentage reduction of Escherichia coli was significantly higher in the less turbid solution (P=0.027), while turbidity did not affect the reduction of Staphylococcus aureus (P>0.05). E. coli was more resistant to QAC treatment than S. aureus. Based on the data obtained we can conclude that QACs could be an alternative in washing processes of fruits and vegetables.

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