Viruses: a big challenge
Ongoing member-funded research is addressing the lack of information available on effective controls against important foodborne viruses associated with infection: norovirus (NoV), hepatitis A (HAV) and hepatitis E (HEV).
With around 200,000 cases per year in England and Wales, virusrelated foodborne illness is becoming a major cause for concern. Our research is looking to locate gaps in current knowledge on the efficacy of controls against viruses, and establish the stability of infective foodborne viruses after exposure to control measures – focusing on NoV and HAV. As NoV is unculturable in the laboratory, we have looked into the use of surrogate viruses that will react to control measures in a similar way to NoV.
The work has looked at effects of storage temperature, pH, water activity and heat: the viruses used remained more infective if stored at chill temperature than at room temperature; pH decreased infectivity, but virus remained infective at pH 2; and the effect of reducing water activity varied depending on the humectant used, with salt maintaining virus infectivity whereas sucrose and glycerol did not.
Work is currently looking at the stability of phage in foods, its heat resistance in food systems, and comparing phage with mammalian virus to determine similarities between the responses of NoV surrogates.