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Keywords:

  • food safety;
  • fresh produce;
  • gastrointestinal disease;
  • outbreaks;
  • pathogens

Summary

In recent years the importance of prepared salads as potential vehicles of gastrointestinal infection has been highlighted by several large outbreaks both nationally and across international boundaries. Between 1992 and 2006, 2274 foodborne general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease were reported in England and Wales, of which 4% were associated with the consumption of prepared salads. In total, 3434 people were affected, with 66 hospitalizations and one death reported. The attribution of prepared salad types and pathogens among prepared salad associated outbreaks are presented and discussed. Findings from UK studies on salad vegetables, fruit and mixed salads from 1995 to 2007 (21 247 samples) indicate that most bacteria of concern with regard to human health are relatively rare in these products (98·6% of satisfactory quality); however, outbreaks of salmonellosis were uncovered associated with bagged salad leaves and fresh herbs during two such studies. Although it is known that fresh salad vegetables, herbs or fruit may become contaminated from environmental sources, only in recent years has the association of foods of nonanimal origin, such as salad vegetables, with foodborne illness become evident and recurrent, demonstrating that major health problems can arise from consumption of contaminated prepared salads if hygiene practices breakdown.