Research – Best Practice for the Control of Human Pathogenic Microorganisms in Plant Production Systems


There is an increased emphasis on and observance of food-borne diseases associated with fresh produce, due in part to changes in the processing, agronomy and distribution of fresh produce but also in the increasing trend for the consumption of minimally processed and raw, ready-to-eat crops. A recent meeting of European experts and commercial growers, assembled under the HuPlant Cost Action assessed the current European situation in relation to the safety of horticultural produce under the themes of
(1) protecting fresh produce from microbial pathogens,
(2) control strategies and sampling and
(3) risk assessment and risk based sampling.
The following report details the discussions and observations which emanated from that meeting, including a list of recommendations, aimed at
(1) Growers,
(2) Regulators and Advisors and
(3) Scientists.
For growers recommendations include reinforcement through clear communication on the need to prevent initial contamination of produce through the adoption of good microbiological safety practice, utilising on farm risk assessments and a focus on avoidance of initial contamination rather than a reliance on decontamination efforts.
This can be achieved through approaches such as the adoption and incorporation of good agricultural practice and good hygiene into standard operating procedures on farm. Recommendations to regulators and advisors include balancing communication messages to growers, indicating what is required of them, but also equally, clearly explaining why it is necessary.
Additionally it was felt that additional supports and materials could be made available to growers, particularly to smaller growers, to assist in the training of staff on the importance of biological safety practice, particularly in sectors where staff turnover may be high and differences in the native languages spoken.
Finally recommendations to scientists include a greater emphasis on knowledge transfer and also to, where possible focus knowledge transfer efforts into developing clear recommendations which growers can implement. The interaction between the plant microbiome, potential pathogens, environmental conditions and agricultural practices requires a greater level of attention and research to aid in predict the risk of human pathogen establishment.
Overall it was recognised that through increased interaction and information exchange between stakeholders will enable better understanding of the issues and opportunities faced by the horticultural sector and the co-creation of advice through participation of all stakeholders can assist in reducing the risk of contamination of horticultural produce.

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