Prevalence of antimicrobial – resistant Escherichia coli from raw vegetables in Lebanon

Fresh produce has been implicated in a number of documented outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) have been detected on vegetables, raising concerns about the prevalence of E. coli contamination in produce, which can take place at various points from farm to fork. The prevalence of antimicrobial-resistant E. coli and potential transmission from soils and in the animal production environment to fresh produce at harvest has been documented, as has the further flow of resistance from fresh produce bacteria via gene transfer to enterobacterial strains in humans.The most common route for fresh produce contamination is at the pre-harvest stage, when microorganisms from animal feces, contaminated irrigation water, and wild and domestic animals can be deposited in crops. Even though foodborne disease outbreaks due to contamination of fruit and leafy green vegetables with pathogens have been rarely documented in Lebanon or the whole Middle East Region, they undoubtedly occur based on surveillance data from other regions. Therefore, the study aimed to detect the presence of STEC and multidrug-resistant (MDR) E. coli on fresh vegetables and water from different sources along the fresh produce supply chain in Lebanon.