Low profit margins drive exodus of large chain supermarkets (LCM) in food deserts. Food desert residents lacking transportation shop for fresh foods at nearby small independently owned markets (SIM). Studies demonstrate SIM incur higher food safety code violations compared to LCM. The study conducted, assessed microbiological quality differences of select fresh produce sold at SIM and LCM within identified Virginia food desert areas of Petersburg and Colonial Heights. Evaluation of 122 fresh produce samples from 10 SIM and nine LCM between September 2018 and April 2019 took place. Higher counts of aerobic mesophile were present in all SIM samples, as compared to LCM. Regardless of SIM or LCM, Campylobacter, E. coli and Listeria were detected in 10.7%, 4.9% and 3.3% of samples, respectively. The SIM accounted for majority of isolated Campylobacter (76.9%). Evaluation of 28 bacterial isolates consisting of Campylobacter, E. coli, and Listeria for susceptibility to 12 antimicrobials occurred. Ampicillin resistance showed highest frequency among Campylobacter (84.6%) while nalidixic acid resistance was highest in Listeria isolates (100%). Approximately 85% Campylobacter and 27% E. coli isolates exhibited multidrug resistance (MDR). Study findings document unique food safety risks associated with food desert SIM. Additional research efforts are needed to conduct a larger-scale sample size of SIM fresh foods. Validation of observed presence of opportunistic foodborne pathogens and antimicrobial resistance associated with SIM fresh foods is a critical research element. Increased knowledge may improve existing SIM food safety best practices in support of increased availability of safe fresh food products to food desert residents.
Keywords: Food Desert; Large Chain Supermarkets; Small Independently Owned Markets; Fresh Produce; Bacteria; Antimicrobial Resistance; Multidrug Resistance
Chyer Kim., et al. "Pilot Study: Microbiological Survey of Select Fresh Produce Acquired from Small Independent Retailers and Large Chain Supermarkets in Food Desert Areas of Central Virginia, USA". EC Nutrition 18.6 (2023): 01-17.
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