Fruits, vegetables sold in Oman violate hygiene, safety standards

MUSCAT: A study has found that fresh fruits and vegetables sold in Oman do not meet hygienic standards and there is a need for stricter monitoring mechanisms.
The study was conducted by Zahra S Al Kharousi from the department of food science and nutrition, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at SQU.
It may be noted that in Oman, large quantities of fruits and vegetables are imported from all parts of the world to provide a year-round supply. This study assessed the microbial load of some fresh fruits and vegetables imported into or grown in Oman and identified the isolated bacteria by biochemical and molecular methods with emphasis on emergent opportunistic pathogens.
The study also investigated genetic relationships between bacteria isolated from fruits and vegetables originated from different countries in the world.
Fruits and vegetables mostly consumed raw were selected for this study. These contained 13 types of fresh imported or locally produced fruits and vegetables including banana, dates, mango, papaya, pomegranate, tomato, watermelon, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cucumber, lettuce and radish.
The samples were purchased from local markets in Muscat or Nizwa, during the period of April to September 2014. The imported fruits and vegetables originated from different countries and they were selected depending on their availability in the market during that period.
The study identified the presence of high counts of aerobic plate count and Enterobacteriaceae as well as faecal bacteria in the analysed samples. The aerobic plate count (APC) is an indicator of bacterial populations on a sample and is used to monitor the hygienic quality of a product throughout processing and distribution but not its safety. Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus were detected in some local and imported samples and their levels were unsatisfactory.
Different bacterial opportunistic pathogens were identified in fresh fruits and vegetables.
These pathogens can establish infections in immune compromised individuals, such as those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, old people and babies and even pregnant women.
Thus, as fresh fruits and vegetables are mostly eaten raw, it would be important to ensure that these individuals are not fed with this type of pathogens from this important food group of fresh fruits and vegetables that have received scientific acknowledgment to be increased in the daily intake due to its linkage with reduced risk of many diseases and ability to promote health of people.
Prof Nejib Guizani, Dr Abdullah al Sadi, Dr Ismail M al Bulushi, and Dr Baby Shaharoona, researchers from the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences participated in this project.

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