FRESAFE: Mitigation strategies for problems associated with foodborne pathogens to improve the quality and safety of frozen and ready for consumption strawberries
The concern about the microbiological safety of fresh, minimally processed and ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables has increased in recent years due to the emergence of several outbreaks of foodborne pathogens linked to their consumption. In 2014, EFSA published a scientific opinion about the risk of Salmonella and Norovirus in berries in which they included strawberries. Among the final recommendations, they indicated the need for targeted surveys on the occurrence of Norovirus in different types of berries both at primary production, after minimal processing (including freezing) and at the point of sale. Moreover, they indicated the need to develop infectivity assays for Norovirus because of the current detection techniques by RT-PCR do not allow to distinguish the infective particles and determine whether they can internalize within berries. Finally, they remarked the need for more research on decontamination treatments effective against all relevant microbiological hazards. In this sense, one of the current problems in this sector is related to the use of sodium hypochlorite, which has led to the search for alternative chemical or physical systems. On the other hand, it is necessary to improve the current systems of safety and quality management of these products in order to facilitate their exportation and for being more competitive in foreign markets.