Microbiological quality of ready-to-eat fresh vegetables and their link to food safety environment and handling practices in restaurants in Lebanon

The increased consumption of ready-to-eat (RTE) salads outside homes as a result of a fast paced lifestyle, awareness on their nutritional attributes and enhanced processing technology is well documented. Outbreak investigations often indicate that food service establishments greatly contribute to food-borne illnesses involving fresh produce.

Fifty small and medium sized (SME) restaurants in Beirut were surveyed for their food safety climates. A total of 118 samples fresh-cut RTE salads vegetables and 49 swabs of knives and cutting boards were collected for microbiological analysis.

A number of food safety practices concerns were identified in this study. The general lack of cleaning and sanitization procedures combined with a clear evidence of cross-contamination opportunities were generally reflected in the overall unsatisfactory quality of RTE vegetables.