The peculiar scent of contaminated leafy greens

Last changed: 25 October 2023

Fruit and vegetables are an essential component of a healthy diet. During the last decades, outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have increasingly been linked to fresh and/or minimally processed fruit and vegetables, e.g. leafy greens

Among these, causal agents such as shigatoxin producing E. coli, causing EHEC infections, Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes are listed. Outbreaks are very costly for the patient, the health care system and the entire food system. As contamination may occur in the entire value chain, failure during preharvest may not be counteracted by processing and contaminated lots are most often consumed when the outbreak is a fact, early detection is required to prevent outbreaks. This project applies a novel and unique odor-based approach to early detect contamination, using volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It pursues a comprehensive approach along the food system. We study changes in VOCs from leafy vegetables in the production chain and link it to the presence of the above named food pathogens. VOC signature profiles for the pathogens are established as well as the ones of intact and damaged leaves. Results on VOCs, prevalence of the food pathogens and interactivities with the crop and processing environment, leaf properties, leaf microbiota display a basis for risk assessment. The project’s scientific basis is currently subject to immaterial right registration. The project is conducted with participation of the food industry for leafy greens.


The project is funded by: Formas

Duration of the project: 2018-2020

Principal Investigator: Beatrix Alsanius

Other contributors: Julia Darlison, Marie Bengtsson, Lars Mogren, Emina Mulaosmanovic, Ivar Vågsholm