Enveloped Phi 6 Bacteriophage Persistence and Cross-Contamination on the Surface of Farmers Market Fomites
This study aimed to investigate the survival and persistence of enveloped phi 6 bacteriophages on several fomites at farmers markets and simulate cross-contamination at farmers markets. Fomites from farmers markets were inoculated with phi 6 bacteriophages (a surrogate for coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2) and plaque forming units (PFUs) were assessed over 30 days at 23 ± 2 °C. Phi 6 persisted up to 16 days on wicker, 13 days on plastic, 4 days on cardboard and molded pulp fiber, and 2 days on tablecloths.
The transfer rate of phi 6 from fomites to hands and produce was assessed at high and low phi 6 concentrations at 23 ± 2 °C. With a high concentration level (107 PFU/ml), the mean transfer rate from fomites to produce ranged from 21% to 30%, and fomites to hands ranged from 21% to 29%, while with a low phi 6 load (103 PFU/ml), the transfer rate from fomites to produce ranged from 10% to 30%, and no phi 6 was detected from fomites to hands. The results highlight the high risk of cross-contamination from fomites.
From a practitioner and public health standpoint, the results of our study show the need to address the use of containers made from cardboard, molded pulp fiber, and wicker, and to ensure that these containers are not reused over time. In addition, managers of farmers markets should encourage the use of nonporous and easy-to-clean and sanitize reusable containers and other food contact surfaces.
Publication: Journal of Environmental Health
Published: July/August 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