CONSUMPTION of fresh cut, ready-to-eat fruits (FCFs) processed and vended in open markets in Nigeria may constitute human health risks, causing food-borne diseases, due to microbial contamination, a study warns.
In the study, researchers had assessed pineapple and watermelon, which are among the commonest ready-to-eat fruits retailed and consumed regularly, including samples of fruit wash water and vendors’ hand, and found them heavily infested with different germs.
Pineapple and watermelon products, samples of fruit wash water and vendors’ hand swabs that were randomly sampled from 12 urban markets situated in the six states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo in south-western Nigeria was tested for bacterial contamination.
Ten samples each of pineapple and watermelon, vended after the fruits are washed, peeled, cut and packaged in polythene bags, were collected per state. Two vendors per fruit type were purposively selected to minimise confounding variables at a particular market.
According to the study, Klebsiella pneumoniae was detected across the six studied states, thereby suggesting that this species is a common bacterial contaminant of FCFs in south-western Nigeria.
Besides, 76 per cent of the germs isolates from these fresh-cut fruits were multidrug-resistant strains. Many of the germs were resistant to antibiotics such as ampicillin and gentamicin. All tested antibiotics could not kill about 7 per cent of all the germs isolated, including Escherichia coli, E. hormaechei, E. sichuanensis and Shigella flexneri.
These germs serve as indicators of faecal contamination of food and water, thereby indicating potential health hazards for consumers.
Besides, hand swabs from fruit vendors and fruit wash water revealed similar germs to those in the fresh-cut fruits, suggesting their involvement as potential sources of contamination of the fruits.
The 2020 study, bacteriological assessment of tropical retail fresh-cut, ready-to-eat fruits in south-western Nigeria, was in the journal, Scientific African.
The study said the fresh-cut fruits could have been contaminated by atmospheric exposure of fruit surfaces due to cutting and removal of peels, lack of heat-processing before consumption, the perishable nature of fruit itself, poor hygiene of handlers, dirty processing and packaging materials, abuse of storage time and temperature among others.
It added, “cases of dysentery and diarrhoea, which resulted in hospitalisation, have been linked to the consumption of food materials contaminated with food-borne bacterial species, such as E. coli, K. pneumoniae and S. flexneri that were detected in fruits analysed in the present study.
“These data are pointers to the urgent need for proper monitoring of the processing, storage and distribution stages for fresh-cut fruits to minimise microbial contamination and outgrowth, and ultimately to safeguard public health.”
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