Apple plantation

Possible contamination with pathogenic germs stuck on the surface of fruit and vegetables can lead to bacterial infections.


Changing cultivation methods and adaptation to climatic changes mean that in arid regions treated wastewater is or could increasingly be used for irrigation purposes.


A comprehensive study presented in April by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), carried out together with the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) and the Max Rubner Institute (MRI), investigated the occurrence of certain human pathogenic bacteria in treated wastewater and how their use as irrigation water affects microbial contamination of fruit and vegetables.


Many types of fruit and vegetables are eaten raw and are not always thoroughly washed or peeled before consumption. Especially people with a weakened immune system could therefore be at increased risk of catching a bacterial infection with typical germs such as Salmonella, E.coli or Listeria if treated wastewater is used for irrigation.


Even after thorough washing with drinking water, pathogenic germs can stick to the surface and cause health problems for sensitive persons.


We therefore recommend that, when testing ready-to-eat fruit and vegetable products from cultivation areas where polluted water is more likely to be used, in addition to regular pesticide residue monitoring, special attention should be paid to superficial microbial contamination too. This applies in particular to fruit and vegetables growing close to the ground, such as strawberries, radishes and open-air salads that are mainly or exclusively eaten raw.


The food laboratories of the AGROLAB GROUP offer special microbiological testing packages for this purpose in accordance with the recommendations of the German Fruit Trade Association (DFHV) and the DGHM.



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Autor: Dr. Frank Mörsberger