Monday, August 1, 2016: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
225-226 (America's Center - St. Louis)
Primary Contact: Lori Gosselin
Organizers: David Kingsley , Efstathia Papafragkou , Juan S. Leon and Lori Gosselin
Convenor: Juan S. LeonAs consumer demands for ready-to-eat fresh produce rise, so does the risks for foodborne illnesses. Emerging viruses and parasites are responsible for an increasing number of outbreaks each year. Norovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States, is responsible for approximately 20 million illnesses a year, resulting in hundreds of deaths, and Cyclospora cayetanensis, the culprit behind last summer’s cilantro outbreak, infected more than 500 persons. As a vehicle for pathogens, raw produce poses a greater threat to public health safety than many other commodities, as it lacks a “kill” step such as cooking that prevents transmission. Due to an absence of validated detection methodologies and reported epidemiology of viruses and parasites, the focus in the past has been on contamination caused by bacteria. By nature, viruses and parasites are more difficult to detect, and detection and surveillance strategies are immature compared to those of bacteria, creating challenges for industry and public health professionals. As viral and parasitic detection science improves, action must be taken to protect consumer health by preventing transmission, highlighting the need for sound education and extension training at all levels of the produce food chain. Viruses and parasites share many characteristics in terms of epidemiology, detection, and control, suggesting joint lessons can be learned from exploring the challenges posed by each. This symposium will discuss the epidemiology of viral and parasitic produce contamination, and will address the current challenges, advances, and opportunities in the field of detection and prevention of produce-transmitted viral and parasitic pathogens.
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