Zoonotic parasitic organisms on vegetables: Impact of production system characteristics on presence, prevalence on vegetables in northwestern Iran and washing methods for removal.Food Microbiol. 2021 May; 95:103704.FM
Fresh vegetables are essential components of a healthy and nutritious diet, but if consumed raw without proper washing and/or disinfection, can be important agents of transmission of enteric pathogens. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of zoonotic parasites on vegetables freshly harvested and "ready to eat" vegetables from greengrocers and markets in northwestern Iran. In addition, the effect of cropping system and season on contamination levels were assessed as well as the efficacy of washing procedures to remove parasites from the vegetables. A total of 2757 samples composed of field (n = 1, 600) and "ready to eat" (n = 1157) vegetables were analyzed. Vegetables included leek, parsley, basil, coriander, savory, mint, lettuce, cabbage, radish, dill, spinach, mushroom, carrot, tomato, cucumber and pumpkin. Normal physiological saline washings from 200 g samples were processed using standard parasitological techniques and examined microscopically. A total of 53.14% of vegetable samples obtained from different fields and 18.23% of "ready to eat" vegetables purchased from greengrocers and markets were contaminated with different parasitic organisms including; Entamoeba coli cysts, Giardia intestinalis cysts, Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts, Fasciola hepatica eggs, Dicrocoelium dendriticum eggs, Taenia spp. eggs, Hymenolepis nana eggs, Ancylostoma spp. eggs, Toxocara cati eggs, Toxocara canis eggs, Strongyloides stercoralis larvae, and Ascaris lumbricoides eggs. In both field and "ready to eat" vegetables, the highest parasitic contamination was observed in lettuce with a rate of 91.1% and 55.44%, respectively. The most common parasitic organism was Fasciola hepatica. A seasonal difference in contamination with parasitic organisms was found for field and "ready to eat" vegetables (P < 0.05). There was a significant difference in the recovery of parasitic organisms depending on the washing method with water and dishwashing liquid being the least effective. Proper washing of vegetables is imperative for a healthy diet as the results of this study showed the presence of zoonotic parasites from field and ready to eat vegetables in Iran.