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Microbial Survey of Selected Ontario-Grown Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

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Recent produce-related outbreaks have been receiving heightened media coverage, which has increased public concern toward the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In response, the microbial contamination of Ontario-grown fresh fruits and vegetables was evaluated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs during the summer of 2004. Prior to this survey, information specific to the microbial contamination of Ontario-produced fruits and vegetables was limited. This nonregulatory survey had two objectives: (i) to obtain a general microbiological profile of selected fruits and vegetables produced in Ontario and (ii) to use the information and knowledge gained from this survey to direct and support future onfarm food safety research and food safety programs to manage potential risks. In all, 1,183 samples, including muskmelon (151), scallions and green onions (173), leaf lettuce (263), organic leaf lettuce (112), head lettuce (155), parsley (127), cilantro (61), and fresh market tomatoes (141), were collected and analyzed. Samples were analyzed for Salmonella, Shigella, and generic E. coli. Enrichment cultures positive for E. coli were further assessed for verotoxigenicity. One sample each of Roma tomato and organic leaf lettuce were positive for Salmonella, with no samples yielding Shigella or verotoxigenic E. coli. The E. coli prevalence was highest in parsley (13.4%), followed by organic leaf lettuce (11.6%), leaf lettuce (6.5%), scallions (6.4%), cilantro (4.9%), muskmelon (1.3%), head lettuce (0%), and fresh market tomatoes (0%). These findings, in combination with foodborne illness data, will help target those commodities that require more focused risk mitigation efforts.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, 1 Stone Road West, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 4Y2 2: Laboratory Services Division, University of Guelph, 95 Stone Road West, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1H 8J7

Publication date: December 1, 2007

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    The Journal of Food Protection (JFP) is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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