Detection and control of foodborne viruses

Detection and control of foodborne viruses

Foodborne viruses are a safety challenge for a range of foods including ready–to–eat products, fresh produce, bivalve shellfish and pork products. While viruses cannot grow in or on foods, they can be carried on or in foods. Three viruses are of primary concern to food safety: norovirus (NoV), hepatitis A (HAV) and hepatitis E (HEV).

We offer a range of services to detect and control viruses in foods:

  • Detection of human Norovirus GI / GII and Hepatitis A virus on fresh and frozen soft berry fruits and a range of salad vegetables – we are the only UK laboratory that has UKAS accreditation to ISO 17025:2005 for this
  • Tailored guidance on foodborne viruses, the threat they pose to specific products and options for their control – including trials to validate specific approaches
  • Bespoke training and briefing sessions on viruses as a hazard, their control and how to handle contamination incidents

We are also currently developing protocols for detection of HEV in pork and pork products as well as NoV and HAV in bivalve shellfish.

How do viruses get into food?

The foodstuffs mainly at risk from contamination with NoV and HAV are those which are lightly processed, eaten raw or ready-to-eat foods – for example, salad vegetables, soft berry fruits and shellfish. HEV may be found in undercooked or minimally processed pork meat products. Contamination of food with foodborne viruses can potentially occur anywhere along the supply chain.

How can foodborne viruses be detected?

Viruses do not multiply in or on foods, can often be present in very low numbers and cannot readily be cultured. Despite being challenging to detect, genomic material from viruses can be found. However, viruses remain detectable after the virus is rendered non-infective, which makes it difficult to determine whether the virus is active or inactive (i.e. a threat to safety or not).

How can viruses be controlled?

The best means of control is prevention – stopping pathogens (including viruses) from entering the food supply chain in the first place. Once viruses enter the food supply chain, further control measures may have to be taken to ensure the safety of the food. Therefore, gaining an understanding of the survival and persistence of foodborne viruses on foods and in the environment, as well as the assessment and validation of antimicrobial treatments against viruses is an important area for the food industry. Information on work we have done in this area can be found here.

More information

There's more about our research and services, together with free downloadable clean-up guides at our Virus hub page

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Where we refer to UKAS Accreditation

The Campden BRI group companies listed below are both accredited in accordance with the recognised International Standard ISO17025:2017 by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). The accreditation demonstrates technical competence for a defined scope of methods, specific to each site, as detailed in the schedules of accreditation bearing the testing laboratory number. The schedules may be revised from time to time and reissued by UKAS. The most recent issue of the schedules are available from the UKAS website

Campden BRI (Chipping Campden) Limited is a UKAS accredited testing laboratory No. 1079 Campden BRI (Nutfield) is a UKAS accredited testing laboratory No. 1207

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