BACKGROUND: Farmers' markets have been growing in popularity in the United States, but the microbial quality and safety of the food sold at these markets is currently unknown. The purpose of this study was to assess the microbial safety and quality of fresh basil, parsley and cilantro sold at farmers' markets in the Los Angeles, Orange County and greater Seattle areas.
RESULTS: A total of 133 samples (52 basil, 41 cilantro and 40 parsley) were collected from 13 different farmers' markets and tested for Salmonella and generic Escherichia coli. One sample (parsley) was confirmed positive for Salmonella and 24.1% of samples were positive for generic E. coli, with a range of 0.70-3.15 log CFU g(-1). Among the herbs tested, basil showed the highest percentage of samples with generic E. coli (26.9%), followed by cilantro (24.4%) and then parsley (20.0%). For 12% of samples, the levels of generic E. coli exceeded guidelines established by the Public Health Laboratory Service for microbiological quality of ready-to-eat foods.
CONCLUSION: Overall, this study indicates the presence of Salmonella and generic E. coli in fresh herbs sold at farmers' markets; however, additional studies are needed to determine the sources and extent of contamination.
Levy, D. J., Beck, N. K., Kossik, A. L., Patti, T., Meschke, J. S., Calicchia, M. and Hellberg, R. S. (2015), Microbial safety and quality of fresh herbs from Los Angeles, Orange County and Seattle farmers' markets. J. Sci. Food Agric., 95: 2641–2645. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6996
Society of Chemical Industry