In the U.S., contaminated domestic and imported fresh produce cause an increasing proportion of foodborne outbreaks, with norovirus the leading causative agent. However, limited data exist on consumer risks from norovirus-contaminated produce complying with FDA Produce Rule guidelines, including exposure pathways (hands, water) and frequency and sources of exposures (infected farmworkers). This supports the need for novel norovirus detection methods and comprehensive risk models applied to farm-based produce production.The major goals of this predoctoral fellowship research project are to identify infectious norovirus and fecal indicator exposure pathways on US and Mexican farms, evaluate norovirus contamination control strategies, and provide innovative training in pathogen detection and risk modeling to advance my career as a leading food safety scientist. In support of these goals, I plan to complete the following objectives:Quantify the relationship between infectious human norovirus and fecal indicators on hands and water during produce production in Nuevo Leon, Mexico.Estimate the association between human norovirus infection and norovirus-contaminated hands of Nuevo Leon, Mexico and South Georgia, US farmworkers.Evaluate FDA's Produce Rule guidelines on the risk of human norovirus contamination across fresh produce commodities during harvest and packing practices.
Quantifying infectious norovirus contamination pathways and risk mitigation strategies on US and Mexican produce farms.