Microbial food safety of lettuce produced under irrigated wastewater from Onyasia River in Ghana

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 9, September 2023
Mahami T., Odai B.T., Nettey S.N.A., Asamoah A., Adjei I., Offei B. et al.

Fresh produce continues to be the main source of foodborne illness outbreaks, particularly in developing countries where water stress results in the use of surface wastewater all year round for irrigation of vegetables. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the microbial quality of lettuce irrigated with wastewater from Onyasia river. Lettuce and soil were sampled from selected vegetable farms on the Eastern gate of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission land alongside surface wastewater from the Onyasia river, which is used as the main source for irrigation. Samples were analyzed for aerobic mesophilic plate counts, total coliforms count, fecal coliforms count, Salmonella counts and intestinal parasites using standard methods. Surface wastewater was found to be contaminated with mean fecal coliform counts of log 3.50 cfu/100 mL. Enterobacter cloacae, Acinetobacter baumannii, and Klebsiella pneumonia were also isolated from the wastewater samples. No intestinal parasite egg was detected in wastewater samples. While fecal coliforms and Salmonella spp were not detected, mean aerobic mesophilic plate counts (log 4.82 cfu/g) and total coliforms count (log 3.50 cfu/g) were recorded in the lettuce samples. Enterobacter asburiae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella variicola and Citrobacter freundii were isolated from lettuce. Infective larvae of helminths were observed on lettuce samples at a density of 36/g-648/g with a mean of 342/g. Soil samples recorded a mean aerobic mesophilic plate counts of log 6.14 cfu/g, total coliforms count of log 4.90 cfu/g while fecal coliforms and Salmonella spp were not detected (<1 cfu/g) Soil samples yielded a mean infective larval count of 1941.5 larvae/g and a Strongyle count of 12 eggs/g. Even though less than 1 cfu/g of Salmonella spp were found, the study found lettuce to be contaminated with other foodborne bacteria pathogens, opportunistic bacteria pathogens, eggs and infective larvae of intestinal parasites of health importance. As a consequence, the microbial food safety risk associated with wastewater irrigated vegetables was observed to be high with possible public health implications. It is recommended that wastewater from the Onyasia River should be treated before use for irrigation of lettuce.