Fecal Contamination on Produce from Wholesale and Retail Food Markets in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Angela R. Harris Environmental and Water Studies, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California;

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Mohammad Aminul Islam International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;

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Leanne Unicomb International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh;

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Alexandria B. Boehm Environmental and Water Studies, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California;

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Stephen Luby Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, California;

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Jennifer Davis Environmental and Water Studies, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California;
Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, California;

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Amy J. Pickering Environmental and Water Studies, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California;
Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts

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Fresh produce items can become contaminated with enteric pathogens along the supply chain at the preharvest (e.g., irrigation water, soil, fertilizer) or postharvest (e.g., vendor handling or consumer handling) stages. This study assesses the concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria Escherichia coli, enterococci (ENT), and Bacteriodales on surfaces of carrots, eggplants, red amaranth leaves, and tomatoes obtained from both a wholesale market (recently harvested) and neighborhood retail markets in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We detected E. coli in 100% of carrot and red amaranth rinses, 92% of eggplant rinses, and 46% of tomato rinses. Using a molecular microbial source tracking assay, we found that 32% of produce samples were positive for ruminant fecal contamination. Fecal indicator bacteria were more likely to be detected on produce collected in retail markets compared with that in the wholesale market; retail market produce were 1.25 times more likely to have E. coli detected (P = 0.03) and 1.24 times more likely to have ENT detected (P = 0.03) as compared with wholesale market produce. Bacteriodales was detected in higher concentrations in retail market produce samples compared with wholesale market produce samples (0.40 log10 gene copies per 100 cm2 higher, P = 0.03). Our results suggest that ruminant and general fecal contamination of produce in markets in Dhaka is common, and suggest that unsanitary conditions in markets are an important source of produce fecal contamination postharvest.

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Author Notes

Address correspondence to Amy J. Pickering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University, 113 Anderson Hall, 200 College Avenue, Medford, MA 02155. E-mail: amyjanel@gmail.com

Financial support: This work was supported by funding from the UPS Endowment Fund at Stanford, the US Agency for International Development, and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Angela Harris was funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a Stanford Graduate Fellowship.

Authors’ addresses: Angela R. Harris, Alexandria B. Boehm, Stephen Luby, and Jennifer Davis, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, E-mails: angelaharris@stanford.edu, aboehm@stanford.edu, sluby@stanford.edu, and jennadavis@stanford.edu. Mohammad Aminul Islam and Leanne Unicomb, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Dhaka, Bangladesh, E-mails: maislam@icddrb.org and leanne@icddrb.org. Amy J. Pickering, Tufts University, Medford, MA, E-mail: amyjanel@gmail.com.

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