, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 211-217
Date: 29 Sep 2010

Norovirus Contamination of Bell Pepper from Handling During Harvesting and Packing

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To evaluate the impact of harvesting and packinghouse operation on the contamination of green bell pepper (GBP) with viruses and enteric bacteria. Hands of 97 workers plus 40 GBP were sampled from field and packinghouse areas. RT-nested PCR were used for the identification of Noroviruses (NV) and Chromogenic agar for the quantification of coliforms and Escherichia coli. NV was found in 30.9 and 23.7% of workers’ hands, before and after 3 h of work, respectively, while 45 and 30% of field and packed GBP was positive for NV. Fecal coliforms and Escherichia coli were present in 68 and 57.3% and 12.4 and 11.1% of workers’ hands before and after 3 h of work, respectively. Fecal coliforms were detected in 85 and 15% of field and packed GBP, respectively, while E. coli was absent. There was no significant correlation between bacterial indicator and NV in the analyzed samples (P > 0.05). Handling of fresh produce by workers during harvesting and packing operations has negative impacts on fresh produce safety.

Significance and Impact of the Study This study demonstrates the importance of reinforcing hygiene practices when bell pepper is handled to prevent microbial contamination.