, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 52-60
Date: 04 Dec 2012

The Fate of Murine Norovirus and Hepatitis A Virus During Preparation of Fresh Produce by Cutting and Grating

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Human noroviruses and hepatitis A virus (HAV) are commonly associated with outbreaks occurring in restaurant establishments and catered events. Food handlers are major contributing factors to foodborne illnesses initiated in the kitchen setting. In this study, transfer of HAV and murine norovirus (MNV-1), a human norovirus surrogate, between produce (cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupes, carrots, and honeydew melons) and common kitchen utensils (graters and knives) was investigated. The extent of virus transfer to produce during utensil application, in the presence and the absence of food residue, and the impact of knife surface properties (sharp, dull, serrated) was also investigated. Transfer of MNV-1 and HAV from produce items, initially contaminated with ~5.5 log PFU, to knives and graters during application ranged from 0.9 to 5.1 log PFU. MNV-1 transfer to knives was the greatest for cucumbers, strawberries, and tomatoes, and the least for honeydew melons, while transfer of HAV to knives was greater for tomatoes and honeydew melons than strawberries, cantaloupes, and cucumbers. After preparation of a contaminated produce item, knife cross-contamination easily occurred as viruses were detected on almost all of the seven produce items successively prepared. Produce residues on utensils often resulted in less virus transfer when compared to utensils without residue accumulation. Knife surface properties did not impact virus transfer. The ease of virus transfer between produce and utensils demonstrated by the current study highlights the importance of efforts aimed toward preventing cross-contamination in the kitchen environment.