FAO and WHO have published two complete reports on microbial hazards in fruits and vegetables and measures to control Salmonella in poultry meat.

The first UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) document covers hazards in produce.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbial Risk Assessment (JEMRA) previously released a summary of findings. Still, the final report is now available as part of the Microbiological Risk Assessment (MRA) series. Part three is sprouts, and part four is leafy vegetables and herbs, berries and tropical fruits, melons and tree fruits, and root vegetables. It has already been published.

FAO and WHO held several expert meetings from 2021 to 2022 to collect, review, and discuss measures to control microbiological hazards from primary production to the point of sale in fresh, ready-to-eat (RTE) and minimally processed fruits and vegetables.

Interventions and stage of supply chain

Primary production in open fields was investigated by considering the location, adjacent land use, topography, and climate; prior land use; water; wildlife, animal and human intrusion; soil amendments; and harvest and packing. Experts also looked at production in protected facilities and post-harvest activities such as transport, distribution, and handling at the point of sale.

For primary production in open fields, research on the survival and growth of pathogens in fresh produce indicates that results are usually context-dependent. Experts said there are significant data gaps primarily because of insufficient scientific evidence. Primary production in protected facilities can be more controlled. However, if not well-managed, these sites can have as many risks and represent a source of cross-contamination.

Data are needed to understand the efficacy of water disinfection treatments to maintain the microbiological quality of process water. There is also a need to search for post-packaging decontamination interventions that could reduce or eliminate the risk of contamination.

The complexity and diversity of how produce is stored, distributed, and marketed at the point of sale creates data gaps, particularly in developing economies. Scientists said retail and food service was the “forgotten part” of the supply chain because limited studies highlight the significance of education and training on produce safety.

FAO and WHO said the advice is helpful for risk assessors and risk managers at national and international levels and those in the food industry working to control hazards or develop improved mitigation and intervention measures.

Poultry meat report

For the chicken meat assessment, experts said no single control measure was sufficiently effective in reducing either the prevalence or the level of contamination of broilers and poultry meat with Salmonella. They added that control strategies based on multiple interventions would have the most significant impact on Salmonella in the broiler production chain.

Scientists found that vaccine-based strategies reduce the prevalence or level of shedding of Salmonella in flocks but do not eliminate it. Stringent biosecurity measures, including sanitation and hygiene, are important factors, and it is essential for breeding flocks to be Salmonella-free.

There was no substantial evidence that substances with antimicrobial activity, such as feed and water additives, effectively control Salmonella in broilers. There was limited information on the effectiveness of bacteriophage-based control of Salmonella at the farm level.

High-pressure processing and irradiation are valuable interventions. Chlorine-based compounds and organic acids, such as lactic and peracetic, showed potential effectiveness.

Experts did not address virulence factors and dose-response curves as they judged the science incomplete. Issues regarding ducks, turkeys, and other species, as well as consumer education, were also not covered.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)