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Campylobacter in plant products

Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of bacterial gastroenteritis. It is mainly spread to humans by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Most infected people will experience diarrhoea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever that lasts from two to 10 days.

The 'Campylobacter in plant products' survey was conducted to gather information on the prevalence and level of Campylobacter in packaged and unpackaged plant products sold in NSW. Other pathogens and microbiological indicator organisms were also tested.

A total of 397 samples of plant products were purchased from supermarkets, greengrocers and farmers’ markets between March 2015 and December 2016. Samples were sent under temperature control to the laboratory for testing within 24 hrs of purchase and tested for Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli as well as standard plate count (SPC). Water activity and pH were also measured and recorded.

Survey results

  • Campylobacter was detected in six samples of plant products (1.5% prevalence). The products were:
    • sliced prepacked mushrooms (detected, <100 cfu/g)
    • prepacked snow pea sprouts (detected, <100 cfu/g)
    • unpackaged spinach leaves (detected, <100 cfu/g)
    • prepacked soya sprouts (not quantified)
    • whole lettuce in an unsealed plastic sleeve (not detected, 100 cfu/g)
    • prepacked sliced vegetables sold as a stir fry pack (detected, <100 cfu/g)
  • E. coli was detected in 4.0% of samples, which was expected as the samples were raw. However, three samples (0.8%) contained E. coli at unexpected elevated levels (above 3,000 cfu/g). These were bean sprouts, snow pea sprouts and whole lettuce
  • only two samples of mung bean sprouts contained Salmonella.

Full results are available in:

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