This study quantified the association of rodent fruit damage and the microbiological quality of irrigation water on the risk of microbiological contamination of strawberries collected from 18 U-pick farms across five different districts in the Guangzhou metropolitan region of southern China. Fifty-four composite strawberries samples, with or without evidence of rodent or avian foraging damage (i.e., bitten), along with 16 irrigation water samples, were collected during the spring of 2014 and winter of 2015 from our cohort of 18 farms. Composite strawberry samples and irrigation water were analyzed for total coliforms, E. coli, Salmonella, E. coli O157, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium. Total coliforms and E. coli were detected in 100% and ~90% of irrigation water samples, respectively. In contrast, Cryptosporidium was detected in only two water samples, while Salmonella, E. coli O157, and Giardia were not detected in any water samples. Strawberries with signs of being bitten by wildlife had significantly higher concentrations of total coliforms and E. coli, compared to strawberries with no physical evidence of rodent damage (p < 0.001). Similarly, Cryptosporidium was detected in 7/18 (39%) of bitten, 4/18 (22%) of edge, and 5/18 (28%) of central strawberry samples, respectively. Concentration of E. coli on strawberries (p < 0.001), air temperature (p = 0.025), and presence of Cryptosporidium in irrigation water (p < 0.001) were all associated with the risk of Cryptosporidium contamination on strawberries. Salmonella and Giardia were detected in <4% strawberry samples and E. coli O157 was not detected in any samples. These results indicate the potential food safety and public health risks of consuming unwashed strawberries from U-pick farms, and the need for improved rodent biosecurity of U-pick strawberry fields and enhanced microbiological quality of irrigation water used at these facilities.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||International journal of environmental research and public health|
|State||Published - Dec 2 2019|
- Total coliform
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis