The occurrence of indicator bacteria on hands and aprons of food handlers in the delicatessen sections of a retail group

08 May 2017

Despite an increase in the number of food handlers receiving food hygiene training, a high number of food poisoning outbreaks still occur as a result of improper food handling practices in the retail industry. In this study, samples were collected from the hands and aprons of food handlers in the delicatessen sections of a prominent South African retail group and analysed for the presence of total viable counts (TVC), total coliforms, Escherichia coli, members of the family Enterobacteriaceae and Staphylococcus aureus in order to assess the levels of contamination and to establish possible relationships. Noteworthy TVC were present on 98% of hands and 84% of aprons sampled and conformed to the national standard of 1 ? 102 cfu cm?2 without exception. Coliforms were present on 40% of food handler?s hands and on 26% of aprons and when compared to the literature which suggests a target value of <2.5 cfu cm?2, 32% of food handlers exceeded the target with regard to hands and 8% with regard to aprons. E. coli was found to only exceed the limit in the case of one food handler. Enterobacteriaceae were present on the hands of food handlers (44%) and on aprons (16%), ranging between 5 and 1.8 ? 101 cfu cm?2 on hands and between 5 and 2.9 ? 101 cfu cm?2 on aprons. S. aureus counts were present on 88% of hands and 48% of aprons and ranged between negligible and 9.8 ? 101 cfu cm?2 for hands and up to 6.2 ? 101 cfu cm?2 for aprons. No significant statistical correlation occurred between the organisms on hands and aprons, indicating that the latter were not likely to be cross-contaminated by hands.