Control of enteric pathogens in ready-to-eat vegetable crops in organic and ‘low input’ production systems: a HACCP-based approach


C. Leifert, Nafferton Ecological Farming Group (NEFG), Newcastle University, Nafferton Farm, Stocksfield, Northumberland, NE43 7XD, UK. E-mail:


Risks from pathogens such as Salmonella, Yersinia, Campylobacter and Escherichia coli O157 have been identified as a particular concern for organic and ‘low input’ food production systems that rely on livestock manure as a nutrient source. Current data do not allow any solid conclusions to be drawn about the level of this risk, relative to conventional production systems. This review describes six Risk Reduction Points (RRPs) where risks from enteric pathogens can be reduced in ready-to-eat vegetables. Changes can be made to animal husbandry practices (RRP1) to reduce inoculum levels in manure. Outdoor livestock management (RRP2) can be optimized to eliminate the risk of faecal material entering irrigation water. Manure storage and processing (RRP3), soil management practices (RRP4) and timing of manure application (RRP5), can be adjusted to reduce the survival of pathogens originating from manure. During irrigation (RRP6), pathogen risks can be reduced by choosing a clean water source and minimizing the chances of faecal material splashing on to the crop. Although preventive measures at these RRPs can minimize enteric pathogen risk, zero risk can never be obtained for raw ready-to-eat vegetables. Good food hygiene practices at home are essential to reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses.