This research will investigate the effect of washing on virus removal from a range of fruit and vegetables.
<p>The main approaches will be to:<ul>
<li>To select model viruses to represent the main virus groups that are likely to cause illness from the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables produce. A vaccine strain of poliovirus to represent the enteroviruses and hepatitis A, the simian rotavirus SA11 to represent human rotaviruses, and a feline calicivirus to represent the Norovirus group. The bacteriophage MS2 was investigated to determine whether it would be a suitable surrogate for the mammalian viruses. Bacteriophages are easier and safer to work with and do not require cell culture facilities for growth.
<li>To establish methods for the inoculation and recovery of viruses from fresh produce.
<li>To determine the survival of viruses on various produce types under a range of conditions.
<li>To investigate the efficacy of washing/sanitisation procedures in removing viruses from produce.</li></ul>
Fresh fruit and vegetable consumption has increased dramatically over recent years and is seen as an essential part of a balanced diet.
<p>Increasingly fresh fruit and vegetables are washed and packaged by the food industry and are sold in a 'ready-to-eat' format, so the microbiological safety of such foods is very important.
<p>Studies have indicated that viruses causing gastroenteritis and, more rarely, hepatitis A maybe transmitted through fruit and vegetables.
<p>The produce maybe contaminated with viruses at the site where they are grown by coming into contact with sewage contaminated water or may be contaminated if handled by an infected person (during harvesting, preparation or packaging).
<p>It is known that gastroenteritis viruses and hepatitis A virus survive well in the environment and, in the absence of cooking, the consumer may on occasions be exposed to infection.
<p>Fresh fruit and vegetables are washed for the 'ready-to-eat' market by commercial processors. Studies with bacteria have suggested that, although washing reduces the number of bacteria to some extent, the process is not nearly so efficient as methods involving heat that are used for some other products.
<p>The Agency funded this research to determine how well viruses survive on fresh produce and to investigate the effect of washing on virus removal from a range of fruit and vegetables.
<p> Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.