, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 179-191
Date: 21 Sep 2012

Harmonised Investigation of the Occurrence of Human Enteric Viruses in the Leafy Green Vegetable Supply Chain in Three European Countries

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Abstract

Numerous outbreaks have been attributed to the consumption of raw or minimally processed leafy green vegetables contaminated with enteric viral pathogens. The aim of the present study was an integrated virological monitoring of the salad vegetables supply chain in Europe, from production, processing and point-of-sale. Samples were collected and analysed in Greece, Serbia and Poland, from ‘general’ and ‘ad hoc’ sampling points, which were perceived as critical points for virus contamination. General sampling points were identified through the analysis of background information questionnaires based on HACCP audit principles, and they were sampled during each sampling occasion where as-ad hoc sampling points were identified during food safety fact-finding visits and samples were only collected during the fact-finding visits. Human (hAdV) and porcine (pAdV) adenovirus, hepatitis A (HAV) and E (HEV) virus, norovirus GI and GII (NoV) and bovine polyomavirus (bPyV) were detected by means of real-time (RT-) PCR-based protocols. General samples were positive for hAdV, pAdV, HAV, HEV, NoV GI, NoV GII and bPyV at 20.09 % (134/667), 5.53 % (13/235), 1.32 % (4/304), 3.42 % (5/146), 2 % (6/299), 2.95 % (8/271) and 0.82 % (2/245), respectively. Ad hoc samples were positive for hAdV, pAdV, bPyV and NoV GI at 9 % (3/33), 9 % (2/22), 4.54 % (1/22) and 7.14 % (1/14), respectively. These results demonstrate the existence of viral contamination routes from human and animal sources to the salad vegetable supply chain and more specifically indicate the potential for public health risks due to the virus contamination of leafy green vegetables at primary production.

P. Kokkinos, I. Kozyra, and S. Lazic contributed equally to the work.