Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

Investigating Microbial Risks in Water Used in Food Production and Preparation

B. Machado-Moreira1, R. O’Malley1, K. Richards2, F. Abram3, K. Burgess1

1Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre, Dublin. 2Teagasc Environmental Research Centre, Johnstown Castle, Wexford.3Functional Environmental Microbiology, National University of Ireland, Galway

Introduction

Water is increasingly being identified as a source of foodborne infectious disease outbreaks, either through direct consumption or as a dissemination route onto vulnerable food products such as salad leaves and shellfish which can often be consumed raw. However, there is a currently a paucity of integrated data relating to the presence and source of enteric pathogens in Irish water sources used in food production. This project will address this by utilizing novel molecular tools (available through the EU project AQUAVALENS) to build up a dataset on the presence of strains of E. coli, Salmonella as well as Cryptosporidium, Norovirus and Hepatitis A virus, in water used in water intensive food industries and in private wells. The project will provide validated data sets regarding the presence of a broad range of human pathogens in water supplies utilized in Irish food roduction, and which may act as a source of contamination. This will allow for appropriate intervention strategies to be put in place, underpinning the safety of our food production systems, something that is vital to maintaining the sustainability of the agriculture and food sectors and safeguarding public health. Factors affecting the native microbiome of wells will be investigated, as will the impact of native microbial communities on pathogen ersistence potential. Such factors may play a key role in the selection of suitable and effective treatments if required.

Project objectives

The main objectives associated with this research project are the following:

  1. To investigate the suitability of molecular tools developed by the EU project AQUAVALENS to assess irrigation water quality
  2. To investigate the presence of a panel of microbial pathogens of human health importance in water used in food production and preparation (including salad leaves, sprouting seeds and soft fruits)
  3. To investigate the potential contamination dynamics of lettuce irrigated with artificially contaminated irrigation water 4. To characterize the microbiome of two vulnerable wells over time to determine factors which impact on the microbiome and on pathogen persistence 

Methodology

  1. Assessment of performance of developed technologies in assessing irrigation water quality. Irrigation water will be spiked with surrogate trains of key pathogens (E. coli and Salmonella).
  2. Implementation of developed technologies in the ready to eat food industry. Samples of irrigation water and post-harvest processing water (either on farms or processing facilities, focusing on leafy green vegetables, sprouted plants, soft fruits and bottled water) will be collected at representative sites across Ireland and new technologies will be compared against conventional methods.
  3. Assessment of lettuce contamination by overhead spray irrigation with water contaminated with surrogate strains of key pathogens (E.coli and L. innocua). Survival of the pathogens in water will also be assessed.
  4. Characterization of microbiome of two vulnerable water sources by next generation sequencing in order to determine the predominant icrobial communities present in the microbiome. The microbiomes will be compared temporally and the impact of physiochemical properties will also be investigated. Biofilm formation of Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter in the presence and absence of water associated microbiota will be

Expected results

The research output will be invaluable for public health and consumers as it will provide scientifically validated data to base risk reduction strategies on, with the overall aim of reducing the risk posed by waterborne dissemination of human enteric pathogens into the food chain. The project will provide validated data sets regarding the presence of a broad range of human pathogens in water supplies, which, when consumed directly or utilised in Irish food production would act as a source of contamination, allowing for appropriate intervention strategies to be put in place. This will underpin the safety of our food production systems, something that is vital to maintaining the sustainability of the agriculture and food sectors and afeguarding public

Acknowledgments

This work is funded EU project AQUAVALENS and by the Walsh Fellowship Scheme

Contact: Bernardino Moreira