Prevalence of parasitic contamination of raw vegetables in villages of Qazvin Province, Iran

Mojtaba Shahnazi, Majid Jafari-Sabet
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease 2010, 7 (9): 1025-30
We conducted a study to determine the extent of parasitic contamination of raw vegetables distributed by wholesalers in villages of Qazvin Province, Iran. Vegetables collected for the study were leek, parsley, lettuce, coriander, radish, spring onion, tarragon, basil, spearmint, and cress. Samples of each vegetable were collected at monthly intervals for 6 months from May to October 2008, yielding a total of 654 samples. Samples of each vegetable collected at each monthly interval were selected randomly and allocated to be washed or to remain unwashed before being analyzed for parasitic contamination. Of the 654 samples collected over the study period, 218 samples were analyzed for parasitic contamination without washing and 436 were washed before being analyzed, with the wash procedure consisting of submersion in a solution of 200 ppm of calcium hypochlorite and rinsing in an automated vegetable washer for 10 minutes. The samples were analyzed according to the method used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for identifying parasitic contamination of raw fruits and vegetables, with specimens weighing 200 g each being prepared from the vegetable samples, followed by sonication of each specimen for 10 minutes in 1.5 L of detergent wash solution, collection and centrifugation of a 50-mL aliquot of the wash solution for 15 minutes at 1500 g, and examination of the resulting sediment for parasites by light microscopy. No parasitic contamination was found on any of the 436 washed samples of vegetables. Of the 218 unwashed samples of vegetables, 82 (37.6%) were found to be contaminated with parasites, of which 69 (31.6%) were contaminated with metazoa (helminth eggs in 9.6% and rhabditoid larvae in 22.0%), and 13 (6.0%) were contaminated with protozoa (Entamoeba coli cysts in 2.8%, Entamoeba histolytica/E. dispar cysts in 1.4%, and Giardia lamblia cysts in 1.8%). The difference in parasitic contamination of the washed and unwashed groups of vegetables was significant at p < 0.05. Helminth eggs detected in unwashed samples included those of nematodes (Ascaris lumbricoides [2.3%], Trichuris trichiura [0.9%], and Trichostrongylus spp. [2.8%]), trematodes (Dicrocoelium dendriticum [1.4%]), and cestodes (Taenia spp. [1.8%] and Hymenolepis nana [0.5%]). The eggs recovered in greatest number were those of nematodes (n = 13), followed by those of cestodes (n = 5) and trematodes (n = 3). No helminth eggs were found on unwashed samples of spearmint, tarragon, coriander, or radish. The percent parasitic contamination of unwashed samples was highest for leek (66.7%) and lowest for radish (20.7%). The highest percent parasitic contamination was with rhabditoid larvae (22.0%) and the lowest with H. nana eggs (0.5%). These findings emphasize the importance of properly washing and disinfecting raw vegetables before they are consumed.

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