Aims: Fresh herbs have been associated with a number of outbreaks in recent years, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. A study of fresh herbs was carried out to assess their microbiological safety in relation to Salmonella contamination and levels of Escherichia coli. Methods and Results: Between January and March 2014, 774 samples of ready-to-eat, fresh, whole-leaf herbs were collected from retail premises in the United Kingdom. Overall, Salmonella was detected in nine samples (1·2%). Of these, five were curry leaves. Other herbs contaminated with Salmonella were basil (two samples), walleria (1) and coriander (1). Escherichia coli was detected in 13% of samples, with 11% containing unsatisfactory levels (≥102 g-1). Conclusions: Whilst 88% of samples in this study were of an acceptable microbiological quality, the presence of Salmonella and/or elevated E. coli levels in 12% is a cause for concern. Curry leaves, in particular, had significantly higher rates of contamination with both Salmonella and E. coli than other herbs. Significance and Impact of the Study: This study highlights the potential public health risk associated with the consumption of certain ready-to-eat fresh herbs, and the need for good hygiene practices and effective decontamination procedures during the growth, harvesting and subsequent handling of these products.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Society for Applied Microbiology.
- Curry leaves
- Food safety
- Fresh herbs