Coronavirus Surrogate Persistence and Cross-Contamination on Food Service Operation Fomites
This study investigated the persistence and transfer rate of phi 6 bacteriophage (SARS-CoV-2 surrogate) on food contact surfaces and fomites that are commonly present in food service operations. Coupons (e.g., stainless steel, cutting board) were inoculated with phi 6 and phi 6 survival was quantified over 30 days. The results showed that phi 6 persisted for up to 13 days on sponges, stainless steel, tabletops, countertops, cutting boards, and light switches. Additionally, phi 6 was found for 10 days on microfiber towels and wooden floors.
We examined the transfer rate of phi 6 from food contact surfaces to wiping tools, hands, and produce. Fomites and hands were inoculated with 107 or 103 PFU/cm2 phi 6 to simulate high and low contamination levels, and surfaces were allowed to dry for 1 hr. The inoculated surfaces were swabbed with sponges or towels or touched with hands or produce, and then these samples were analyzed. The results indicated that food contact surfaces, fomites, and hands can serve as sources of viral transmission within food service operations. Enveloped phi 6 could persist for days on inanimate surfaces and pose a high risk of cross-contamination in food service operations. The results of this study could be used by the food service industry to address sanitation practices and by public health agencies to provide science-based recommendations to stakeholders.
Publication: Journal of Environmental Health
Published: June 2023
- Zahra H. Mohammad, PhD, Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership, University of Houston
- Thomas A. Little, Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership, University of Houston
- Sujata A. Sirsat, MS, PhD, Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership, University of Houston