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Shiga Toxin-Producing (STEC) in Fresh Produce—A Food Safety Dilemma

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  • Author: Peter Feng1
  • Editors: Vanessa Sperandio2, Carolyn J. Hovde3
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    Affiliations: 1: Division of Microbiology, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD 20740-3835; 2: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX; 3: University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
  • Source: microbiolspec August 2014 vol. 2 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EHEC-0010-2013
  • Received 10 June 2013 Accepted 23 July 2013 Published 15 August 2014
  • Peter Feng, peter.feng@fda.hhs.gov
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  • Abstract:

    Produce contains high levels of mixed microflora, including coliforms and , but occasionally pathogens may also be present. Enterotoxigenic and Shigatoxin-producing (STEC) have been isolated from various produce types, especially spinach. The presence of STEC in produce is easily detected by PCR for the Shiga toxin (Stx) gene, , but this is insufficient for risk analysis. STEC comprises hundreds of serotypes that include known pathogenic serotypes and strains that do not appear to cause severe illness. Moreover, Stx without a binding factor like intimin (encoded by ) is deemed to be insufficient to cause severe disease. Hence, risk analyses require testing for other virulence or serotype-specific genes. Multiplex PCR enables simultaneous testing of many targets, but, in a mixed flora sample, not all targets detected may be coming from the same cell. The need to isolate and confirm STEC in produce is critical, but it is time- and labor-intensive due to the complexity of the group. Studies showed that only a handful of STEC strains in produce have , and most belonged to recognized pathogenic serotypes so are of definite health risks. Several -negative strains belonged to serotypes O113:H21 and O91:H21 that historically have caused severe illness and may also be of concern. Most of the other STEC strains in produce, however, are only partially serotyped or are unremarkable serotypes carrying putative virulence factors, whose role in pathogenesis is uncertain, thus making it difficult to assess the health risks of these STEC strains.

  • Citation: Feng P. 2014. Shiga Toxin-Producing (STEC) in Fresh Produce—A Food Safety Dilemma. Microbiol Spectrum 2(4):EHEC-0010-2013. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EHEC-0010-2013.

Key Concept Ranking

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
0.67759883
Shiga Toxin 2
0.54
0.67759883

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2014-08-15
2017-11-20

Abstract:

Produce contains high levels of mixed microflora, including coliforms and , but occasionally pathogens may also be present. Enterotoxigenic and Shigatoxin-producing (STEC) have been isolated from various produce types, especially spinach. The presence of STEC in produce is easily detected by PCR for the Shiga toxin (Stx) gene, , but this is insufficient for risk analysis. STEC comprises hundreds of serotypes that include known pathogenic serotypes and strains that do not appear to cause severe illness. Moreover, Stx without a binding factor like intimin (encoded by ) is deemed to be insufficient to cause severe disease. Hence, risk analyses require testing for other virulence or serotype-specific genes. Multiplex PCR enables simultaneous testing of many targets, but, in a mixed flora sample, not all targets detected may be coming from the same cell. The need to isolate and confirm STEC in produce is critical, but it is time- and labor-intensive due to the complexity of the group. Studies showed that only a handful of STEC strains in produce have , and most belonged to recognized pathogenic serotypes so are of definite health risks. Several -negative strains belonged to serotypes O113:H21 and O91:H21 that historically have caused severe illness and may also be of concern. Most of the other STEC strains in produce, however, are only partially serotyped or are unremarkable serotypes carrying putative virulence factors, whose role in pathogenesis is uncertain, thus making it difficult to assess the health risks of these STEC strains.

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Tables

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TABLE 1

Selected STEC strains and serotypes isolated from various produce commodities

Source: microbiolspec August 2014 vol. 2 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EHEC-0010-2013
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TABLE 2

Serotype and pathotype of selected produce STEC strains

Source: microbiolspec August 2014 vol. 2 no. 4 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.EHEC-0010-2013

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