Recently scientists have been exploring whether or not pathogens can enter fruits and vegetables through plant parts, and have found that bacteria can indeed be taken in through the roots. Now new research shows that the leaves of tomato plants are a possible point of entry for Salmonella.
A study from the University of Florida, released Wednesday by PloS ONE publications, revealed that after leaves of tomato plants were exposed to high concentrations of Salmonella, the bacteria traveled through the plant and contaminated some of the fruit.
Researchers found that 1.5 percent of tomatoes whose leaves had been dipped into a solution with a high concentration of Salmonella then tested positive for the bacteria.
However, these findings don't mean that 1 or 2 out of every 100 tomatoes in the field will be contaminated if their leaves come into contact with Salmonella. The concentrations of Salmonella used for the study were much greater than what plants would normally be exposed to, says Ariena van Bruggen, the study's lead author, a professor of plant pathology and member of UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute.
This unusually high concentration of Salmonella was necessary, says van Bruggen, in order to ensure that if the bacteria did get through to the fruit, it would be detectable among the smaller sample size of a greenhouse full of tomatoes.
"If you use a normal Salmonella concentration that you would find in the field, you would have to test say 10,000 plants or so," she explained to Food Safety News.