Foodborne viruses – the known unknowns
By Suzanne Jordan - 26 October 2015
While the microbiological hazards posed by Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli in food are well known, we’ve become increasingly aware of a very different group of food pathogens – viruses. While they cannot grow in or on foods, viruses are carried on foods.
The UK Government's Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) suggests that the most important viruses associated with foodborne infection are Norovirus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E.
Viruses have been reported to be fairly resistant to a number of control measures. However, since the methods used to detect foodborne viruses are based on detecting part of their viral genome (virus RNA), which may remain detectable after the virus is rendered non-infective, it makes it difficult to establish whether virus that is present is active or inactive.
Add to that the fact viruses cannot easily be cultured outside of their host cells and it won't come as a surprise that there is little knowledge about the presence of infective viruses in food and even less information on how to treat those foods to render any viruses non-infective.
In response to these challenges, we have started a project to research into the control of viruses in food production. The project, which will last three years, will help us to determine the efficacy of potential virucidal treatments such as fogging, pulsed light, pressure and heat, and establish the infectivity of foodborne viruses after exposure to these control measures.
For more information about our virus research or testing services please contact