A Microbiological Survey of Selected Alberta-Grown Fresh Produce from Farmers' Markets in Alberta, Canada

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Previously there was no available information on the levels of indicator bacteria and the prevalence of pathogens in fresh produce grown in Alberta, Canada. Baseline information on the occurrence and levels of Escherichia coli and the prevalence of foodborne pathogens in selected produce items available to consumers from farmers' and public markets in two large urban centers and surrounding areas in Alberta was obtained. A total of 10 large markets with between 1 and 12 produce vendors and 26 small markets with between 1 and 6 produce vendors were sampled from 21 June to 7 October 2007. Lettuce (128 samples), spinach (59 samples), tomatoes (120 samples), carrots (206 samples), green onions (129 samples), and strawberries (31 samples) were analyzed for E. coli, Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter spp. Lettuce, spinach, green onion, and strawberry samples were also tested for the presence of Cryptosporidium spp. Information on whether produce was grown using organic or conventional practices was obtained from the produce vendors. E. coli was isolated from 8.2% of the samples that included lettuce, spinach, carrots, and green onions. The bacterial counts ranged from <0.48 to >3.04 Log most probable number per g. E. coli was not isolated from tomatoes or strawberries. The percentage of positive samples ranged from 4.4% for carrots to 27.1% for spinach. Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter spp. were not isolated from any of the samples. Cryptosporidium was identified by PCR in one sample of spinach (0.6% of the samples).

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Food Safety Division, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, 6909-116 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6H 4P2 2: Calgary Health Region, 1509 Centre Street S.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2G 2E6 3: Capital Health, Suite 300, 10216-124 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5N 4A3

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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