Survey conducted by a consumer organization for the presence of bacterial and viral pathogens on high risk fresh produce from the Belgian market
Vegetables and fruits are recognised as an important vehicle of food-borne diseases, and because of increased numbers of food-borne outbreaks and alerts, consumer concern about the safety of these products has grown. A survey commissioned by the Belgian consumer organisation was undertaken in Belgium in collaboration with Ghent University (Belgium) in the framework of the EU FP7 Veg-i-Trade project focused on leafy greens, herbs and soft red fruits. These products are known to be products at risk for bacterial and viral contamination. Sampling took place across the country in different markets in the Christmas period 2010; during this time, many high-risk fresh products are globally sourced and imported in Belgium. Each country and exporting company has its own production practices and food safety management system. The bacterial pathogens Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157 and hygiene indicator E. coli were analysed. Reversed transcriptase (RT) real-time PCR was performed to analyse for norovirus (NoV). FRNA bacteriophages were examined as a potential viral indicator. In Belgium a total of 36 fruit or vegetable samples were analysed of which none tested positive for any of the bacterial pathogens, while 11.4% (4/35) tested positive for NoV by real-time PCR. One sample was found positive for NoV genogroup I (rocket salad) and three for NoV genogroup II (parsley, basil and rocket salad). According to the hygiene indicator E. coli, all samples were of good microbial quality. No FRNA bacteriophages were detected. Despite the good bacteriological quality, NoV was found by RT-PCR. As the relation between the detection of genomic copies and the presence of infectious virus particles is not yet established, the risk to human health is still questioned.
De Keuckelaere, A. , Baert, L., Stals, A. , De Vocht, M., Li, D., Delbeke, S. , Lauryssen, S., Jacxsens, L., Sas, B. and Uyttendaele, M. (2018). Survey conducted by a consumer organization for the presence of bacterial and viral pathogens on high risk fresh produce from the Belgian market. Acta Hortic. 1209, 459-466
leafy greens, herbs, soft red fruits, real-time RT-PCR, norovirus, FRNA bacteriophages