The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) has issued a scientific opinion on the risk posed by Salmonella and Norovirus in fresh and frozen berries. According to BIOHAZ, which reviewed the limited data pertaining to the prevalence of these foodborne pathogens in berries, the risk factors for contamination are likely to include environmental conditions, contact with animal reservoirs and insufficiently treated compost, the use of contaminated water for irrigation or chemical applications, and cross-contamination by harvesters, food handlers or equipment. To mitigate these risks, BIOHAZ urges primary producers to implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems as well as Good Agricultural Practices, Good Hygiene Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
More specifically, the scientific opinion identifies Norovirus in frozen raspberries and strawberries as “an emerging public health risk,” stressing the need for additional data to develop microbiological criteria for improved control of Norovirus in these products and gauge the effectiveness of food safety management systems. “A high proportion of berries consumed in the EU are imported from non EU countries, mostly as frozen berries, and attention should be paid to the application of these mitigation options during production and processing in the countries of origin,” concludes the opinion. “Food safety management based on GMP and HACCP principles should be applied by processors, distributors, retailers, and caterers involved in production of ready-to-eat berries.”