Foodborne illnesses involving fresh produce have been increasingly causing concerns around the world. Pathogenic bacteria can attach to and colonize the surfaces of fresh produce, leading to contamination and illness outbreaks. however, mechanistic interactions between produce surface properties (e.g. roughness, topography and hydrophobicity) and bacterial retention remain poorly understood. As a result, effective strategies eliminating pathogenic contaminants for fresh produce are not yet available. Using produce surfaces and their replicas, we systematically evaluated bacterial/colloid retention and removal as a function of physicochemical properties (roughness and hydrophobicity) of these surfaces as well as characteristics of water retention and distribution on the surfaces. We found that water retention and associated interfacial behavior associated with water on produce/replica surfaces are the key parameters that dominantly affect bacterial/colloid retention and removal, and those parameters in turn are collectively governed by surface roughness, topography and hydrophobicity. Based on these insights, we are developing new methods/strategies for more effective cleaning of fresh produce and other contaminated surfaces.
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