Microbiological study of fresh herbs from retail premises uncovers an international outbreak of salmonellosis

Nicola Elviss*, C. L. Little, L. Hucklesby, S. Sagoo, S. Surman-Lee, E. de Pinna, E. J. Threlfall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services/Health Protection Agency study was prompted by the increasing concern regarding the microbiological safety of ready-to-eat salad vegetable products, particularly fresh herbs. During May to October 2007, 3760 ready-to-eat fresh herbs, of different varieties, were sampled across the UK to assess their microbiological safety in relation to salmonella contamination and levels of Escherichia coli. Sixty (1.6%) herb samples were found to be of unsatisfactory quality according to Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 on the microbiological criteria of foodstuffs, i.e. contaminated with Salmonella spp. and/or containing E. coli at > 103 cfu/g. When criteria in the PHLS Microbiological Guidelines for some ready-to-eat foods (2000) were used, 117 (3.9%) of herb samples were of unsatisfactory quality due to the presence of salmonella and/or E. coli at ≥ 102 cfu/g. Eighteen (0.5%) samples of six different herb types were contaminated with Salmonella spp.: identified as serotypes Senftenberg (8), Agona (2), Anatum (1), Durban (1), Javiana (1), Mgulani (1), Montevideo (1), Unnamed (I 16:g, t: z42) (1), Virchow (1) and mixed Newport & Virchow (1). In each case the retailer and the UK Food Standards Agency were immediately informed and remedial action taken. Samples contaminated with S. Senftenberg were specifically associated with basil grown in Israel. Thirty-two human cases of S. Senftenberg infection were subsequently identified throughout England and Wales and a further 19 in Scotland, Denmark, The Netherlands and the USA. The strain of S. Senftenberg identified from the basil and that from cases had an indistinguishable molecular profile, suggesting a likely connection between consumption of basil and human infection. The presence of Salmonella spp. is unacceptable in ready-to-foods such as fresh herbs. This study highlights the necessity of applying good agricultural and hygiene practices pre-, during and post-harvest, at processing, retail and use. These practices help to prevent cross-contamination and/or bacterial growth occurring in these products. Best practice is to store and display such products at, or below, 8 °C as this inhibits bacterial growth. Crown

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-88
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Food Microbiology
Volume134
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2009

Keywords

  • Contamination
  • Escherichia coli
  • Fresh herbs
  • Salmonella
  • Salmonellosis

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