P-025. Fecal Contamination of Aguaje Fruit among Vendors in Iquitos, Peru: A Possible Source of Diarrheal Diseases

B. J. Oberg1, S. Tringali1, J. Waits1, B. Wynn1, C. Oberg2;
1Touro Univ. Nevada, Henderson, NV, 2Weber State Univ., Ogden, UT.

Transmission of infectious diseases by fecally contaminated food is still a significant health problem in developing countries. This not only represents a reoccurring health risk for the local population where the prevalence of diarrheal illness can exceed 20%, but also has serious implications for travelers from developed nations. The presence of coliforms has long been used as an indicator of fecal contamination in food and, possibly, the presence of fecally transmitted pathogens. In this study, fecal contamination of Aguaje fruit prepared by public food handlers was determined by screening 24 samples collected at random from street vendors and public markets in Iquitos, Peru. Many citizens of Iquitos collect, prepare (soak and peel), and sell Aguaje fruit to supplement their income so there exists a wide range of hygienic practices among Aguaje fruit vendors. Samples were taken of the water the fruit was soaked in prior to purchase by consumers. Samples were diluted in sterile 0.9% NaCl and plated on Total Coliform, Enterobacteriaceae, and E. coli/Coliform PetrifilmTM. Inoculated PetrifilmTM were incubated at 37 °C for 24 h then counted utilizing the growth interpretation guide provided with each type of PetrifilmTM. Results showed that 83% (20 of 24 sites) of samples contained coliforms, 46% (11 of 24) contained E. coli and 71% (17 of 24) were positive for Enterobacteriaceae, indicative of possible Salmonella contamination. Coliform counts for individual samples ranged from 0 to greater than 3 x 104 per ml of wash water. Negative samples correlated anecdotally to vendors who stated in a vendor survey they used a highly concentrated brine solution for washing the prepared fruit. These results indicate that Aguaje fruit, eaten raw following vender preparation, could be a significant source of fecal pathogen transmission to its consumers. Limited surveys of vender preparation methods also suggest that the utilization of a strong brine to wash prepared fruit may prevent possible fecal pathogen transmission.