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From cultivation to the end of the post-harvest chain, heat-sensitive fresh produce is exposed to a variety of sources of pathogenic microorganisms. If contaminated, effective gentle means of sanitation are necessary to reduce bacterial pathogen load below their infective dose. The occurrence of rare or new serotypes raises the question of their tenacity to inactivation processes. In this study the antibacterial efficiency of cold plasma by an atmospheric pressure plasma-jet was examined against the Shiga toxin-producing outbreak strain Escherichia coli O104:H4. Argon was transformed into non-thermal plasma at a power input of 8 W and a gas flow of 5 L min(-1). Basic tests were performed on polysaccharide gel discs, including the more common E. coli O157:H7 and non-pathogenic E. coli DSM 1116. At 5 mm treatment distance and 10(5) cfu cm(-2) initial bacterial count, plasma reduced E. coli O104:H4 after 60 s by 4.6 ± 0.6 log, E. coli O157:H7 after 45 s by 4.5 ± 0.6 log, and E. coli DSM 1116 after 30 s by 4.4 ± 1.1 log. On the surface of corn salad leaves, gentle plasma application at 17 mm reduced 10(4) cfu cm(-2) of E. coli O104:H4 by 3.3 ± 1.1 log after 2 min, whereas E. coli O157:H7 was inactivated by 3.2 ± 1.1 log after 60 s. In conclusion, plasma treatment has the potential to reduce pathogens such as E. coli O104:H4 on the surface of fresh produce. However, a serotype-specific adaptation of the process parameters is required.