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Tracking Foodborne Pathogenic Bacteria in Raw and Ready-to-Eat Food Illegally Sold at the Eastern EU Border

Ciolacu, Luminita, Stessl, Beatrix, Bolocan, Andrei Sorin, Oniciuc, Elena Alexandra, Wagner, Martin, Rychli, Kathrin, Nicolau, Anca Ioana
Foodborne pathogens & disease 2016 v.13 no.3 pp. 148-155
Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157, European Union, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, bacteria, cheeses, cross contamination, food handling, food pathogens, herds, lard, pork, poultry meat, raw milk, ready-to-eat foods, trade, Romania
Food illegally brought into the European Union, mainly in the personal luggage of travelers, represents a potential threat to consumers' health. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of five pathogens in food brought into the European Union by Moldavian citizens as personal goods and illegally sold in Romania in the vicinity of the border. The occurrence of Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes was 7.5% and 8%, while Campylobacter spp., Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Salmonella spp. were absent in all samples. L. monocytogenes sequence type 2, 9, 121, and 155, highly prevalent among foodstuffs worldwide, was also present among isolates from ready-to-eat food illegally sold in Romania, even at the same date of sampling, indicating cross-contamination during food handling. S. aureus spa types t449, t304, and t524 were most often isolated from raw-milk cheeses contaminated with 10³–10⁵ colony-forming units per gram, evidencing a contamination at herd level or unhygienic conditions during processing. S. aureus t011 and t3625, both included in the livestock-associated CC398, were isolated from pork lard and poultry meat. This study shows that cross-border trade from nonmember states represents a neglected route of transmission of foodborne pathogens into the European Union that could lead to sporadic or family-associated cases of disease.