In this study, the impact of the combination of pulsed light (PL) treatments with antimicrobial coatings, consisting of modified chitosan suspensions incorporating carvacrol nanoemulsions, was investigated on the decontamination of fresh-cut cucumber slices. The upper surface of the cucumber slices, with or without the coating deposition, was inoculated with Escherichia coli ATCC 26 to reach a final concentration of 107CFU/g of the vegetable. PL treatments were conducted at different fluence (4, 8, and 12 J/cm2) on the inoculated surface of cucumber slices. Results showed that the microbial reduction was only marginally affected by the coating formulation. A slight increase was observed when the carvacrol nanoemulsions were embedded in the chitosan matrix, but microbial reduction levels remained always below 1 log cycle. In contrast, the different PL treatments resulted in a statistically significant increase in inactivation with increasing the treatment fluence, reaching 2.6 log cycles at the maximum fluence. Remarkably, the combination of the antimicrobial coating with the most intense PL treatments resulted in a strong synergistic effect. For example, by combining a PL treatment at 12 J/cm2with one of the antimicrobial coatings a microbial reduction > 5 log cycles was reached. Therefore, it can be concluded that the combination of antimicrobial coatings and PL treatment is a promising method for surface decontamination of fresh-cut vegetables, which could be exploited in view of ensuring their microbiological safety.
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