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Potential of Houseflies To Contaminate Ready-to-Eat Food with Antibiotic-Resistant Enterococci

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It was shown previously that houseflies in fast-food restaurants commonly carry antibiotic-resistant and potentially virulent enterococci. In this study, the potential of field-collected houseflies to contaminate ready-to-eat (RTE) food with enterococci was assessed by laboratory bioassays. Houseflies were collected with a sweep net in a cattle feedlot and exposed in groups of 5, 10, 20, and 40 to a beef patty (from an RTE hamburger) for 0.5, 1.0, 3.0, and 24 h. The exposure of RTE food to flies resulted in 100% contamination with enterococci in all bioassays, regardless of the number of houseflies and the length of exposure time. In addition, with the increasing number of houseflies as well as with the increasing time exposure, the concentration of enterococci in RTE food increased. Even a short time exposure (0.5 h) resulted in food contamination, ranging from 3.1 × 103 CFU/g (5 houseflies) to 8.4 × 104 CFU/g (40 houseflies). The analysis of 23 randomly selected enterococcal isolates from RTE food after the fly exposure revealed a single species, Enterococcus faecalis. In contrast, four Enterococcus species, including E. faecalis (57.1%), E. gallinarum (19.1%), E. hirae (14.3%), and E. faecium (9.5%), represented 21 randomly selected and identified isolates from houseflies. Phenotypic screening showed that E. faecalis isolates from RTE food were resistant to ciprofloxacin (17.4%), tetracycline (13.0%), erythromycin (13.0%), and chloramphenicol (4.3%). This study demonstrates a great potential of houseflies from a cattle feedlot to contaminate RTE food with enterococci in a short time.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Entomology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA 2: Department of Entomology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA; Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, 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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