Somatic Coliphage Profiles of Produce and Environmental Samples from Farms in Northern México
Somatic coliphages were quantified in 459 produce and environmental samples from 11 farms in Northern Mexico to compare amounts of somatic coliphages among different types of fresh produce and environmental samples across the production steps on farms. Rinsates from cantaloupe melons, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, and the hands of workers, soil, and water were collected during 2011-2012 at four successive steps on each farm, from the field before harvest through the packing facility, and assayed by FastPhage MPN Quanti-tray method. Cantaloupe farm samples contained more coliphages than jalapeño or tomato (p range <0.01-0.03). Across production steps, jalapeños had higher coliphage percentages before harvest than during packing (p = 0.03), while tomatoes had higher coliphage concentrations at packing than all preceding production steps (p range <0.01-0.02). These findings support the use of targeted produce-specific interventions at multiple points in the process of growing and packing produce to reduce the risk of enteric virus contamination and improve food safety during fruit and vegetable production.