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Growth and survival of aerobic and Gram-negative bacteria on fresh spinach in a Chinese supply chain from harvest through distribution and refrigerated storage

and last updated on July 29, 2022 05:53 PM



  • Bacterial dynamics on fresh spinach along a Chinese supply chain were investigated.
  • Bacteria levels did not differ across the supply chain stages.
  • Time, temperature, and bacterial dynamics differed between eCommerce and local grocery.
  • Pseudomonas was the predominant genus isolated from packaged spinach.


Spinach is a highly perishable product that degrades over time, including due to bacteria contaminating the product prior to packaging, yet the dynamics of bacterial spoilage and factors that affect it are not well understood. Notably, while China is the top producer of spinach globally, there is limited available microbiological data in the literature for spinach supply chains in China. The overall goal of this foundational study was to establish a baseline understanding of bacterial population dynamics on spinach from harvest to 10 days postprocessing for a Chinese supply chain that includes distribution via traditional grocery (a local physical store) and eCommerce (an online store). To this end, organic spinach samples were collected at different stages in a Chinese supply chain by following the same 3 lots, starting at point-of-harvest through processing and distribution via a local grocery store and eCommerce. After distribution, the same 3 lots were stored at 4 °C with microbiological testing performed on multiple days up to day 10 postprocessing, simulating storage at the point-of-consumer. Results showed aerobic plate counts and total Gram-negative counts did not significantly differ across stages in the supply chain from harvest through processing. However, packaged spinach from the same processing facility and lots, exhibited different patterns in bacterial levels across 0 to 10 days postprocessing, depending on whether it was distributed via the local grocery store or eCommerce. Evaluation of bacterial populations performed on a subset of the packaged spinach samples indicated Gram-negative bacteria, in particular Pseudomonas, were predominant across all days of testing (days 0, 3, and 10 postprocessing), with populations differing at the genus level by day. Overall, this study improves our understanding of the dynamics of bacterial populations on spinach and provides baseline data needed for future studies.


Spoilage bacteria; eCommerce; Produce; Food quality; Supply chain; Cold chain

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Sarah I. Murphy, Ruixi Chen, Alexandra M. Belias, Wei Chen, Li-Qun Zhang, Sriya Sunil, Ece Bulut, Yirui Li, Martin Wiedmann, Renata Ivanek, Growth and survival of aerobic and Gram-negative bacteria on fresh spinach in a Chinese supply chain from harvest through distribution and refrigerated storage, International Journal of Food Microbiology, Volume 370, 2022, 109639, ISSN 0168-1605, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2022.109639.