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Front. Public Health | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2018.00040

Low Prevalence of Human Pathogens on Fresh Produce on Farms and in Packing Facilities: A Systematic Review

  • 1Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, United States
  • 2Produce Safety and Microbiology Unit, Western Regional Research Center, United States

Foodborne illness burdens individuals around the world and may be caused by consuming fresh produce contaminated with bacterial, parasite, and viral pathogens. Pathogen contamination on produce may originate at the farm and packing facility. This research aimed to determine the prevalence of human pathogens (bacteria, parasites, and viruses) on fresh produce (fruits, herbs, and vegetables) on farms and in packing facilities worldwide through a systematic review of 38 peer-reviewed articles. The median and range of the prevalence was calculated, and Kruskall-Wallis tests and logistic regression were performed to compare prevalence among pooled samples of produce groups, pathogen types, and sampling locations. Results indicated a low median percentage of fresh produce contaminated with pathogens (0%). Both viruses (p-value=0.017) and parasites (p-value=0.033), on fresh produce, exhibited higher prevalence than bacteria. No significant differences between fresh produce types or between farm and packing facility were observed. These results may help to better quantify produce contamination in the production environment and inform strategies to prevent future foodborne illness.

Keywords: Farm-to-fork, pathogen, Fruit, vegetable, herb, farm, packing facility

Received: 31 Oct 2017; Accepted: 05 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Olivier Vandenberg, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Ana Afonso, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
Hung V. Trinh, Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc. (HJF), United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Van Pelt, Quiñones, Lofgren, Bartz, Newman and Leon. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Juan S. Leon, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Hubert Department of Global Health, 1518 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, 30322, GA, United States,