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Title: Assessing the microbiological quality of process water used in the primary production of fruit and vegetables: A comprehensive survey in Belgium
Authors: Bosmans, Lien
Vankerckhoven, Eef
Van Herck, Liesbeth
Smets, Tom
Van Hemelrijck, Wendy
Willems, Kris
Lievens, Bart
Rediers, Hans
Issue Date: 1-Sep-2014
Conference: International ICFMH conference: Food Microbiology edition:24 location:Nantes, France date:1-4 September 2014
Abstract: In horticulture, water is used for several processes, e.g. crop irrigation, rinsing, and transport. During cultivation, harvest or post-harvest processes, bacterial pathogens present in process water, can be transmitted to the produce, and possibly pose a risk for consumers. To assess this risk in the Belgian horticulture, the microbiological quality of the process water used during fruit and vegetable production was investigated in this study.
Five microbiological indicators were assessed using traditional microbiological plating techniques, i.e. Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, the level of mesophilic aerobic bacteria and coliforms. However, traditional plating methods are time-consuming, laborious, and PCR-based techniques are usually limited in the simultaneous detection of large numbers of different pathogens. Therefore, in a first part of this study a DNA array hybridization assay was developed for reliable detection and identification of pathogens that are frequently found in water or associated with fresh produce, including Listeria spp., Mycobacterium spp., Clostridium spp., Campylobacter spp., Shigella spp., and Legionella spp.
In a second part, both traditional plating and the DNA array were used to analyze process water samples taken in a representative selection of around 80 Belgian horticultural companies. The analysis of over 250 process water samples provides valuable information regarding the microbiological quality of water currently used in Belgian horticulture. The data obtained indicate that municipal water and ground water are of better microbiological quality, compared to rain water or open well water. When the water is used in a specific process, the highest microbial loads were detected in grading water of apples and pears and in rinsing water of leek and asparagus. Nevertheless, the data obtained in this study show that the microbiological quality of the water used in the Belgian fruit and vegetable production, contributes little or not to the food safety risk.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Bioengineering Technology TC, Technology Campus De Nayer Sint-Katelijne-Waver
Technologiecluster Bioengineering Technologie

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