Muscat: Some fresh fruits and vegetables in Oman do not seem fit for consumption and the situation needs to be addressed, a study by the Sultan Qaboos (SQU) University has suggested.
This study was carried out by PhD candidate Zahra S. Al-Kharousiof the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at the SQU.
It identified some microbes after analysing samples of local and imported fresh fruits and vegetables in Oman, thus indicating that some were not satisfactorily hygienic.
Oman imports large quantities of fruits and vegetables from almost all over the world to ensure year-round supply for its needs.
Prof. Nejib Guizani, Dr Abdullah Al Sadi, Dr. Ismail Al Bulushi, and Dr Baby Shaharoona, all researchers of the College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences, participated in this project.
Findings of this research were reported in the International Journal of Microbiology, Volume 2016.
The study also investigated genetic relationships between bacteria isolated from fruits and vegetables that originated from different countries.
Fruits and vegetables that are mostly eaten raw were selected for this study.
These contained 13 types of fresh, imported or locally produced, fruits and vegetables, including banana, dates, mango, papaya, pomegranate, tomato, watermelon, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cucumber, lettuce and radish.
The samples were purchased from local markets in Muscat or Nizwa, between April and September, 2014.
The imported fruits and vegetables, originating from different countries, were selected depending on their availability in the market during that period.
The study identified the presence of high aerobic plate count and Enterobacteriaceae as well as fecal bacteria in the samples that were analysed.
The aerobic plate count (APC) is an indicator of bacterial populations in a sample and is used to monitor the hygienic quality of a product throughout processing and distribution but not its safety. Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus were detected in some local and imported samples and their levels were unsatisfactory.
Different bacterial opportunistic pathogens were identified in fresh fruits and vegetables.
These pathogens can establish infections in immune-compromised individuals, i.e., those whose immune systems have been weakened,such as people undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, old people and babies and even pregnant women.
Thus, as fresh fruits and vegetables are mostly eaten raw, it would be important to ensure that these individuals are not fed with this type of pathogens from this important food group of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly as there is scientific acknowledgment that the daily intake of these should be increased. This is so due to its linkage with reduced risk of many diseases and ability to promote the health of people.
Opportunistic pathogens can also emerge as important primary pathogens in future as these can gain the capacity to induce infections in healthy individuals.