The growing burden of foodborne outbreaks due to contaminated fresh produce: risks and opportunities
Foodborne outbreaks from contaminated fresh produce have been increasingly recognized in many parts of the world. This reflects a convergence of increasing consumption of fresh produce, changes in production and distribution, and a growing awareness of the problem on the part of public health officials. The complex biology of pathogen contamination and survival on plant materials is beginning to be explained. Adhesion of pathogens to surfaces and internalization of pathogens limits the usefulness of conventional processing and chemical sanitizing methods in preventing transmission from contaminated produce. Better methods of preventing contamination on the farm, or during packing or processing, or use of a terminal control such as irradiation could reduce the burden of disease transmission from fresh produce. Outbreak investigations represent important opportunities to evaluate contamination at the farm level and along the farm-to-fork continuum. More complete and timely environmental assessments of these events and more research into the biology and ecology of pathogen-produce interactions are needed to identify better prevention strategies.